Southern Black Rhinoceros
Diceros bicornis minor
Species Survival Plan
Brush and scattered open woodlands
Adults have no natural enemies but man
Leaves, twigs, shrubs, bark and herbs
Originally Native To
60 inches at shoulder
2,000 - 3,000 lb.
Gray, not black; 2 horns; pointed prehensile upper lip
15 - 16 months
Year round, peaks with the rainy season
Wild 30 - 35 years
Captivity 35 - 40 years
About Southern Black Rhinoceros
Fossil Rim participates in the International Rhino Foundation’s Southern Black Rhino Sustainability Program, which is a coordinated international effort to establish and maintain a viable population in captivity to save the species.
In addition to breeding, Fossil Rim is participating in research that will hopefully help increase the world’s dwindling population. While strict laws prohibit hunting to protect black rhinos, poaching continues to be a problem. Even in national parks and reserves, enforcement of those laws is difficult given the availability of automatic weapons in the region and ever-higher prices for rhino horn.
The black rhino horn is not a true horn; it is made of dense fibers similar to material in fingernails. It can range from to 1.5-4 feet in length. The horn is not attached to the skull, but rather grows from the skin.
Rhinos are poached for their horns, which in powdered form is a popular ingredient in traditional Asian medicines. More recently, the horn has become a status symbol of the wealthy. There is no scientific evidence of rhino horn’s medicinal value, but the poaching continues.
A dehorning program was attempted in the hopes of making the rhino worthless to poachers. Unfortunately, poachers continued killing rhinos in the hopes of increasing the value of the horns they already had in their possession and to prevent them from tracking those rhinos again.
The word “rhinoceros” is derived from the Greek rhino (nose) and ceros (horn). Like the white rhino, the black rhino is actually gray and has two horns. However, the black rhino has a pointed, prehensile upper lip, which distinguishes it from the white rhino.
Black rhinos are browsers, so the design of their lip is very helpful for grabbing leaves and branches. Their necks are not nearly as bulky as white rhinos because they need more range of movement to be able to grab food above their head level.
At Fossil Rim, black rhinos eat coastal hay, feed pellets, alfalfa, and browse. Trees normally used for browse include live oak, elbow bush, sumac, and mesquite.
Black rhinos have an issue with storing too much iron that animal care staff must be mindful of. The tannins found in small tree limbs and leaves play an important role in binding iron and decreasing absorption by the rhinos.
Efforts to reduce iron intake are multifaceted at Fossil Rim. Instead of giving the black rhinos a trace mineral block with some iron, they are only given a salt block. Alfalfa tends to be higher in iron than grass hay, so staff are careful not to give them too much.
There is also a water filtration system that removes most of the iron from their well water. Fortunately, processing excess iron is not as much of an issue in the wild.
There is actually no color difference between black rhinos and white rhinos. They are both dark gray when they are not covered in mud or dust.
Black rhinos only have hair on their ears, tail tips and eyelashes.
One of the largest land animals, black rhinos are extremely agile for their size and can reach speeds of 30 mph when charging. Although they have poor eyesight, their hearing is acute. Black rhinos have long, tube-shaped ears that act as funnels for sound. They can swivel their ears in all directions, picking up noises from great distances.
Their sense of smell is superb and is their primary method of detecting danger. Black rhino calves weigh 55-90 pounds at birth and stay with their mothers for up to three years.
Extremely possessive, their home territory always includes at least one watering hole and a mud wallow. The boundaries are defined by urine sprayed on bushes and middens (dung heaps) left by the male at regular intervals.
The males scatter the dung with their horns and hind feet to form middens about 72 inches wide. The probable reason for this is to warn other males they are trespassing and also to advertise their own presence to single females who may thus be encouraged to enter their territory.
The black rhino is not as solitary as it is often thought to be. Males may tolerate other males, as long as they remain submissive, and females sometimes allow an unrelated juvenile to accompany her and a calf.
Black rhinos are most active at night when they do most of their foraging and drinking.
At Fossil Rim, black rhinos live in the Jim Jackson Intensive Management Area.
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As a private nonprofit corporation, Fossil Rim does not receive national or state government support. Every cent spent or donated here goes in some way, directly or indirectly, toward the care of our animals.