White Rhino Gathering

Dennis Stewart

Keller, United States

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A shot of a group of White Rhino’s purposedly aged (digital photography technique) to better convey a message that without proper conservation, a aged photograph of them may be all we will have in the not so distant future. – Dennis

GENERAL INFORMATION:

The White Rhinoceros or Square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is one of the five species of rhinoceros that still exist and is one of the few megafauna species left. It has a wide mouth used for grazing and is the most social of all rhino species. The White Rhino is the most common of all rhinos and consists of two subspecies: the Southern White Rhino, with an estimated 17,480 wild-living animals at the end of 2007 (IUCN 2008), and the much rarer Northern White Rhino. The northern subspecies may have as few as 13 remaining world-wide – 9 captive and 4 wild – although the wild population has not been seen since 2006 and may have disappeared entirely.

Description
White Rhinoceros in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

The White Rhinoceros is the world’s largest land mammal after the elephants. It has a massive body and large head, a short neck and broad chest. The head and body length is 3.4 to 4.2 m (11 to 13.75 ft), with the tail adding another 50 to 70 cm (20 to 27.5 in). The shoulder height is 150-185 cm (59-73 inches). Weight typically ranges from 1,440 to 3,600 kg (3,168 to 7,920 lb), with the male being slightly heavier. The record-sized White Rhinoceros was about 4500 kg (10,000 lb). On its snout it has two horns made of keratin, rather than bone as in deer antlers. The front horn is larger than the other horn and averages 89.9 cm (35 inches) in length and can reach 150 cm (59 inches). The White Rhinoceros also has a noticeable hump on the back of its neck which supports its large head. Each of the rhino’s four stumpy feet has three toes. The color of this animal ranges from yellowish brown to slate grey. The only hair on them is on the ear fringes and tail bristles. White Rhinos have the distinctive flat broad mouth which is used for grazing. White Rhinos have three distinct toes. Its ears can move independently to pick up more sounds but it depends most of all on smell. The olfactory passages which are responsible for smell are larger than their entire brain.

Distribution

The northern subspecies is now only found in the Republic of Congo while the southern subspecies or majority of white rhino live in southern Africa. 98.5% of white rhino occur in just five countries (South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda). Almost at the edge of extinction in the early 20th century, the southern subspecies has made a tremendous comeback. In 2001 it was estimated that there were 11,670 white rhinos in the wild with a further 777 in captivity worldwide, making it the most common Rhino in the world. By the end of 2007 wild-living Southern White Rhino had increased to an estimated 17,480 animals (IUCN 2008).

Like the black rhino, the White Rhino is under threat from habitat loss and poaching, most recently by Janjaweed. The horn is mostly used for traditional medicine although there are no health benefits from the horn; the horn is also used for traditional necklaces. A recent population count in the Republic Congo turned up only 10 rhinos left in the wild, which led conservationists on January 15, 2005 to propose airlifting White Rhinos from Garamba into Kenya. Although official approval was initially obtained, resentment of foreign interference within the Congo has prevented the airlift from happening as of the beginning of 2006. On June 12, 2007 poachers shot the last 2 rhinos in Zambia, injuring one and killing the other. They had removed the horn off the deceased rhino.

Garamba National Park

The last surviving population of wild Northern white rhinos are all located in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Recent civil wars and disruptions have been cause for much concern about the status of this last surviving population.14

In January 2005, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) approved a two-part plan for the translocation of five northern white rhino from Garamba National Park to a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. The second part commits the Government and its international partners to increase conservation efforts in Garamba, so that the northern white rhinos can be returned when it is safe again.2 The translocation has not occurred yet.

In August 2005, ground and aerial surveys conducted under the direction of African Parks Foundation and the African Rhino Specialist Group (ARSG) have only found four animals. A solitary adult male and a group of one adult male and two adult females. Efforts to locate further animals continue.2 According to Newsweek (“Extinction Trade,” March 10, 2008) there were only 2 northern white rhinos alive in Garamba – “a death sentence for that population.”

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