Often on safari when we have sightings of rhinos, the most frequently asked question is: “What are the differences between the white and black rhinos?”

White / Square-lipped rhino (Ceratotherium simum):
They are the second largest African land mammal, weighing up to 2.3 tons and are usually a light grey in colour. There are two horns on the face of which the longer horn is in the front and the shorter horn in the back. The lip is square in shape and the head is angled towards the ground which signifies that it is a grazer. It prefers open savannah grassland and wonders between short grass areas. Water and shady trees are also a requirement for these mammals.

White rhinos eat a large amount of grass everyday; almost 5% of its body mass. It gestates for 16 months and may live for 40 – 45 years. Females can breed from about 4 / 5 years of age. Males are territorial and often solitary and hold territories from about 12 years of age. This animal has also been heavily persecuted by poachers for many years for the supposed medicinal properties of the horns. Calves run in front of their mother due to the open habitat that they live in.

Black Rhino / Hook-lipped rhino (Diceros bicornis):
The black rhino weighs up to about 1.2 tons. They are also grey in colour with a very thick skin, making them resilient to the thorns in its preferred habitat, known as dense riverine bush. Found on forested slopes in some of the drier regions and also at home in the dessert. Black rhino is a browser which means it feeds on leaves and branches. Tell tale signs of black rhino feeding are that small twigs are cut at a 45 degree angle and are seen in the dung of the animals.

It gestates for 15 months, life expectancy is between 40 – 45 years and they are usually solitary and territorial. They have a reputation for being aggressive coupled with natural curiosity. They have a prehensile hooked lip that helps the animal with its feeding. They are able to put their heads above their shoulders which assists them when feeding. Finally.their young run behind their mothers due to their preferred habitat.

F.W de Klerk – Kapama River Lodge

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