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Tony: Male, born at Jacksonville Zoo on February 8, 2002. He arrived here at the Zoo on May 4, 2006.
The southern white rhino is the largest of all rhino species. These heavy bodied and short legged animals weigh more than the average pickup truck. They have a very large head that is supported by a huge muscle mass that forms a hump over their shoulders. White rhinos have two horns, with the front horn much longer than the back horn. Their ears are fringed in coarse hairs and seem to be constantly in motion. Their mouth is wide and flat and is well adapted for a grazing lifestyle.
At the end of the 19th century the southern white rhino was considered extinct, but a small population numbering around 50 animals was discovered in South Africa. With intense protection the southern white rhino came back from the edge of extinction and is now considered to be the most numerous species of rhino left in the world. Most of the approximately 15,000 southern white rhinos are restricted to game reserves and national parks where their safety can be carefully monitored.
A typical lifespan for a white rhino in a zoo is 36 years for males and 33 years for females. A few individuals may reach 45 years, although most individuals don’t reach these oldest ages. Lifespan in the wild is not well known.
White rhinos have complex social systems. They spend almost their entire lives within their home range. These home ranges vary in size depending on the available resources. Unlike most other rhino species that are solitary, white rhinos are often found in groups that can number as high as 14. Rhino herds will sometimes have sub-adults of both sexes. All sub-adults, regardless of sex, will look to find herd mates, and will congregate in larger groups on occasions. Adult males are mainly solitary and will confront other bulls that invade their territory. These dominant males mark their territory by spreading dung, spraying urine, and scraping the ground with their feet. Rhinos need access to water, and frequently wallow in mud to cool off and protect themselves from insects. Although they may look fierce, white rhinos in zoos are usually quite docile and become very attached to their caretakers. They respond well to training and can easily learn behaviors that will help with their care – such as standing for voluntary vaccines. Not very interested in food treats, white rhinos respond very well to petting and attention as a reward during training.
Breeding occurs throughout the year with peak seasons in summer and fall. When he finds a female who is receptive to mating, a male will stay with her for a few weeks. Rhino courtship can be a violent affair, as they chase each other and clash horns. After mating, the male has no more responsibility in the rearing of his calf. After a gestation of around 16 months a single calf is born. Rhino calves weigh about 110 lbs and are active shortly after birth. They are weaned anywhere between 1-2 years and stay with their mother for another year after that until she drives them away before the birth of her next calf. Both sexes are sexually mature at around 6 years of age, but males are rarely strong enough to fight for mating rights until they are 10-12 years old.
The white rhino is the next largest land animal after elephants. They can stand 5-6' tall at the shoulder.
They can weigh between 5,000 and 6,000 lbs.
Southern white rhinoceros are herbivores, meaning they only eat plant material. The white rhino is a grazer preferring short grasses. At the Zoo, the white rhino consumes nearly 40 lbs of timothy grass hay daily. In addition to the grass hay the animal also receives an herbivore pellet that contains a balance of nutrients to complement the hay. A trace mineral salt supplement and vitamin E supplement is added to the diet to make up for deficiencies in the hay.
Southern and Central Africa
On the 2011 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Southern white rhinoceros is listed as Near Threatened.
To learn more about the conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo, click here.
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