hook-lipped, rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis). The black rhino is one of two African species
of rhinos. Weighing up to one and a half tons, it is smaller than its counterpart—
the white, or square-lipped, rhinoceros. Black rhinos live in savanna grasslands, open
woodlands, and mountain forests in a few small areas of southwestern, south central,
and eastern Africa. They prefer to live alone and will aggressively defend their territory.
With an upper lip that tapers to a hooklike point, the black rhino is perfectly suited to
pluck leaves, twigs, and buds from trees and bushes. It is able to eat coarser vegetation
than other herbivores.
Black rhinos are odd-toed ungulates, meaning they have three toes on each foot. They
have thick, gray, hairless hides. Among the most distinctive of the rhino’s features is
its two horns, which are actually made of thickly matted hair rather than bone. The
rhino uses its horns to defend itself against lions, tigers, and hyenas, or to claim a female
mate. The courtship ritual is often violent, and the horns can inflict severe wounds.
After mating, the female and male rhinos have no further contact. The gestation period
is 14 to 18 months, and the calves nurse for a year, though they are able to eat vegetation
almost immediately after birth. The bond between a mother and her calf can last up to
four years before the calf leaves its home.
In recent years, rhinos have been hunted to the point of near extinction. Scientists
estimate that there may have been as many as a million black rhinos in Africa 100 years
ago, a number that has dwindled to 2,400 today. All five remaining species, which
include the Indian, Javan, and Sumatran rhinos, are now endangered. Humans are
considered their biggest predators.