Saturday 15 June
Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)
- The black rhino has two horns which are made of keratin
- In spite of its name, the black rhino is actually grey
- It is estimated that 96 % of the black rhino population was lost between 1970 and 1992
- The black rhino has a characteristic pointed, prehensile upper lip, which is adapted for grasping leaves and twigs
Black rhinoceros fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Black rhinoceros description
The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is the most well known of the five living rhinoceros species, with its aggressive reputation and highly publicised international conservation drive. Black rhinoceros are in fact grey in colour and are distinguished from the other African species (which is also grey) the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), by its pointed, prehensile upper lip; white rhinoceros have square lips (2). Both African rhinoceros species possess two horns, made from clumped fibres rather than bone, and the taller front horn may be 60 centimetres or longer (4).
- Rhinocéros Noir.
- Rinoceronte Negro.
Black rhinoceros biology
Black rhinoceros are mainly solitary creatures, occupying overlapping home ranges (5). In this long-lived species females reach sexual maturity at around five to seven years old and give birth to a single calf every two to four years (6). Births can occur throughout the year and each calf tends to remain with its mother until the birth of her next offspring. Rhinoceros have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell and hearing (5). They are inquisitive and often aggressive towards humans and other animals (4).
Using their prehensile lip, black rhinoceros feed on the leaves and twigs of a variety of woody plants and herbs (4). Foraging often occurs in the cool of dawn and dusk; they spend much of the rest of the day resting in the shade or wallowing in shallow water holes, coating their skin in mud to protect it from the harsh sun and to deter biting flies (2).Top
Black rhinoceros range
Once found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa with the exception of the Congo Basin and other equatorial forest areas of West Africa (4). The recent decimation of the black rhinoceros has restricted the range to fragmented populations, predominately existing in reserves in Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Cameroon, Malawi and Swaziland (4). Four subspecies are recognised in different areas of the species range: the southwestern (Diceros bicornis bicornis), western (D. b. longipes), eastern (D. b. michaeli) and south-central black rhinoceros (D. b. minor) respectively (1).Top
Black rhinoceros habitat
The black rhinoceros inhabits a variety of habitats, ranging from the deserts of Namibia through wooded grasslands to broadleaved woodlands and acacia savannahs (4).Top
Black rhinoceros status
The black rhinoceros is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3). Subspecies: southwestern black rhinoceros (D. b. bicornis) classified as Vulnerable (VU); western black rhinoceros (D. b. longipes), eastern black rhinoceros (D. b. michaeli) and south-central black rhinoceros (D. b. minor) are all classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Black rhinoceros threats
Black rhinoceros have been poached to the brink of extinction due to the demand for their horn, both for use in Chinese traditional medicine and for traditional dagger handles in Yemen, the demand for which exploded in the 1970s due to the increased income of oil-rich Gulf States (7). It is estimated that between 1970 and 1992, around 96 percent of the black rhinoceros population was lost (8).Top
Black rhinoceros conservation
The population crash in the latter half of the 20th Century saw rhinoceros numbers plummet to a low of about 2,400 individuals (4). A variety of conservation approaches have been adopted, which have resulted in the stabilisation and partial recovery of populations in a number of countries. The most successful have involved the rigorous protection of rhinoceros in fenced sanctuaries, often in partnerships between the State and private sectors, or in intensely protected unfenced zones within larger areas (4). Dehorning has also been used in some countries to reduce the incentives to poach (4). In 1997, Yemen became a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), thus greatly reducing the demand for rhinoceros horn in the Middle East (7). By 2001, the continental black rhinoceros population had increased to 3,100, with populations in six of the eight range states increasing (4). Most individuals are conserved in heavily protected areas. The African Rhino Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) provides advice on the conservation of African rhinoceros, and has developed a detailed Action Plan, which provides extensive information and strategic direction for their conservation (4).Top
Find out more
For more information on the black rhinoceros:
The International Rhino Foundation:
BBC Wildlife Finder:
EDGE of Existence:
Find out more about black rhinoceros conservation projects:
Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund
Authenticated (27/8/02) by Martin Brooks. Chair, African Rhino Specialist Group.
- Capable of grasping.
- A different race of a species, which is geographically separated from other populations of that species.
IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
Animal Diversity Web (July, 2002)
CITES (August, 2002)
- Brooks, M. (2002) Pers. comm.
- Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, UK.
Animal Info (July, 2002)
WWF Threatened Species Account (July, 2002)
International Rhinoceros Foundation (July, 2002)
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.