A Black Rhino’s horns are nothing like those of a Cape Buffalo. First, two horns grow from the top of the animal’s snout. Second, they grow three inches a year and can reach as much as five feet in length.
The horns are treasured more than gold in some countries. Middle Easterners carve the horns into decorative dagger handles. Asians grind them into medicine to treat malaria, epilepsy, and fever. So poaching is widespread.
Since poachers only hunt rhinos with horns, wildlife experts developed a way to keep poaching at a minimum. They catch the few remaining rhinos, saw off their horns (which soon grow back), and return the rhinos to the wild.
Black Rhinos remain rare even on game reserves. Some reserves, like Kariega, board White Rhinos instead. Neither rhino is white or black in color but actually grey.
So, how can you tell a Black from a White Rhino? Look at their mouths. The Black Rhino’s triangular upper lip is shaped something like a parrot’s beak. The lip helps him grab small tree limbs, bushes, fruit, leaves, and plants. The White Rhino sticks his square upper lip close to the ground and grazes the grasses.
Black Rhinos feed at night. During the day, they search for relief from the hot African sun in water or the shade of trees. The Ranger parked our nine-passenger vehicle within yards of several rhinos. One wallowed in the black mud while a mother, calf, and another rhino rested on the other side of the small pond. The mud and muck acts as a natural bug repellent and sun protector.
Poor sighted and often irritable, Black Rhinos sometimes charge, for no reason, at a speed of about 30 miles per hour. Today, these rhinos ignored our vehicle.
A male Black Rhino lives by himself except when he wants to mate. He has no natural animal enemies, just humans. Even a lion will change his direction and go out of his way to avoid a Black Rhino. However, lions assault and kill separated calves.
A female attacks with her horns. Even though a Black Rhino weighs up to 6,000 pounds, he is not clumsy. He turns quickly in a small space.
Black Rhino families seldom mingle with other family groups but stick to themselves. Once a calf reaches the age of three or four, he may wander off from his mother. With his keen sense of smell, he follows the trail of other rhinos.
Oxpeckers look after Black Rhinos. The bird picks ticks from the rhino’s thick skin and squawks when danger approaches. Unfortunately, he also pecks at a rhino’s sores and causes more infection or bleeding.
Today’s Black Rhinos look much like rhinos have looked for the last three or four million years. Humans have taken over their habitat, hunted them, and affected their numbers. With a slow reproduction cycle – a new calf only every two and a half to five years – his population grows at a slow pace. Still, there is hope they will not become extinct.
Game reserves attempt to gather and protect all the slowly vanishing wild animals, including the Black Rhino.