BIG Moves (58)
|White Rhinoceros - Ceratotherium simum simum|
I suppose you were waiting to see some Kruger shots, but I first have to share this episode from my archives. The sighting of mating Rhinos is rather rare and this is the first and only time I ever had the privilege of seeing this after nearly 20 years of regular visits to the numerous Nature Reserves and Parks in South Africa (and it is a TrekNature 1st). There were 8 vehicles lined up in the road who all witness this episode and from the excited conversations emanating from the vehicles I could hear everyone was in awe of what they were busy observing. Unfortunately the Rhinos chose to do their thing behind some weeds and obviously I would have loved to get nice clean shots, but hey, I suppose they are entitled to a wee bit of privacy (chuckle).
Just as rare and significant as this sighting may have been so remarkably funny it was. It was captured near the Bekaphanzi Pan in the iMfolozi Park. This poor guy was slightly smaller than the female and he had a real though time to mount her. It took about 30 minutes before the actual copulation took place (which only lasted about 5 minutes) while all the time the female kept on feeding and moving about as can be seen in the workshop. This detachment surely did not assist the male's amorous attempts and he really had to work hard in order to ensure the propagation of his species. After about 35 minutes our stud was totally exhausted and he slumped down on top of the female. He then unceremoniously slipped off her side, fell to the ground and just laid there; obviously trying to catch his breath and maybe some dignity after the cow almost seemed indifferent to whatever he did. She just gave him one look and then continued grazing. Laughter erupted from all the vehicles lining the road, but I had to wonder: "Why was it all the ladies that laughed the loudest?" Serious.
KINGDOM: Animalia (animals)
PHYLUM: Chordata (animals with a shared body plan having at some stage in their lives: a notochord, a dorsal neural cord, pharyngeal slits & a post anal tail)
SUBPHYLUM: Vertebrata (fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, & mammals)
CLASS: Mammalia (vertebrate animals with sweat glands, hair, 3 middle ear bones, and a neocortex region in the brain)
ORDER: Perissodactyla (odd-toed ungulates, browsing and grazing mammals)
FAMILY: Rhinocerotidae (herbivorous megafauna with thick protective skin & a large horn)
Length: 4.5-4.8m; tail length 1m
Height: 180cm at the shoulder
Weight: male 2,000-2,300kg, female 1,400-1,600kg
Horn length: recorded front 1.58m
Also known as the Square-lipped Rhino. Despite being called White Rhino they are grey or taking on the colour of local dust and mud in which it frequently wallows. It is noticeably larger than the Black Rhino (or Hooked-lipped Rhino), has a large, distinctive hump on the neck and the long, heavy head is usually carried only a few centimetres from the ground. Of the two horns on the face the front one is usually the longer. The ears are large and pointed. Its name is derived from the broad, squared-off muzzle adapted for grazing.
Once widely distributed in Africa's grassed savannas, it is now limited to isolated pockets. The southern sub-species was restricted to the iMfolozi Game Reserve (KwaZulu-Natal) at the beginning of this century, but has now been widely distributed to reserves and private farms throughout its former range. Reintroduced population in Botswana and Zimbabwe have been poached to the verge of extinction. By far the majority are located in South Africa.
Shows a distinct preference for areas of short-grass savanna, with access to thick bush cover for shade, and water for drinking and wallowing. Favoured habitats are usually those of mixed grass/open woodland associations.
More social than the Black Rhino, with typical groupings consisting of a territorial bull, subordinate bulls, cows and their accompanying young. Territorial bulls usually only move out of their area if they don not have direct access to water, leaving every three or four days to drink. Other bulls are generally tolerant of a male intruder if he shows subordinate behaviour. The territories are quite small (less than 3km square), but the size is dictated by the quality and abundance of food. Cows occupy home ranges of between 6-20km square that can overlap the territories of several bulls. Although fights over territories are usually avoided, severe conflicts do occur, particularly when a bull is in the company of an oestrus cow. Bulls mark their territories with large dung middens (toilets) located around the perimeter as well as within it, which may involve scuffing with the hind feet after defecation. The spraying of urine also has a territorial marking function. Most feeding takes place during the cooler daylight hours and at night, with shade being sought during the hotter midday hours. Despite their cumbersome appearance they can attain a speed of 40km/h when under stress. Eyesight is poor, but the senses of hearing and smell are acute. Generally more tolerant of human presence than the Black Rhino, but approaches to these animals on foot should be made with caution as there have been several human fatalities following charges.
Selective grazers, showing a distinct preference for short grass species.
During mating, sexual activity can last more than an hour. After a gestation period of about 480 days (16 months), a single calf weighing some 40kg is dropped. The cow moves away from the group to give birth, remaining apart for several days. The calf walks in front of the mother. Calves can be dropped at any time of the year, but in KwaZulu-Natal there are peaks in March and July. A calf remains with the cow for 2-3 years after birth.
Near Threatened - species or lower taxa that may be considered threatened with extinction in the near future, although it does not currently qualify for the threatened status (IUCN 3.1). As of 31 December 2007, there were an estimated 17,480 Southern White Rhino in the wild (IUCN 2008), making them the most abundant subspecies of rhino in the world.
Extracted from "Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa" by Chris & Tilde Stuart, Struik publishers.
Post Processing was done with Adobe Photoshop CS2.