White Rhino

White Rhino

The white rhino is one of the two
rhino species found in Africa and the second-largest land mammal on earth. Despite its name the white rhino is not actually white at all, its skin is grey in colour. There are many different theories as to where the term ‘white’ came from, but the most common one is that it is derived from the Afrikaans word for ‘wide’, describing the white rhino's wide mouth and upper lip. The white rhino is also known as the square-lipped rhino and is the larger of the two African species (black rhino, white rhino).

There are two genetically distinct white rhino subspecies, the northern white rhinoceros (scientific name: Ceratotherium simum cottoni) and the southern white rhinoceros (scientific name: Ceratotherium simum) found in different parts of Africa. Sadly, the northern white rhino is on the brink of extinction and considered critically endangered. In 2018, the last remaining adult male northern white rhino named Sudan passed away. There are now only two female northern white rhinos left, Najin and Fatu, both living at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya heavily protected by armed guards. However, some exciting advancements have been made with scientists and conservationists successfully creating nine northern white rhino embryos to use for in vitro fertilization.

White Rhino Characteristics

The white rhino is a grazer with a large front horn and can often be found grazing on short grass in the open plains of the savanna. They are an important part of the ecosystem! They need to feed on a daily basis but can survive for 4 to 5 days without water. Adult males typically defend their territories and roam with small groups of female rhinos and their calves. 

The Southern white rhino can be found mostly in South Africa, with smaller translocated populations found in Kenya and Zimbabwe. There are also smaller reintroduced populations in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland, Uganda and Eswatini, while a small population survives in Mozambique.

Populations of white rhino have recovered from an all-time low of around 100 in 1895 to the current wild population of 15,942 and the species is now classified as Near Threatened. However, an increase in habitat loss and rhino poaching since 2008, particularly in South Africa, is once again threatening the total population. Rhino horn is often sold by poachers on the wildlife trade black market, typically in Asia where keratin is considered very valuable. However, the southern white rhino’s population increase is considered a great conservation success!

While rhino conservation efforts and rhino-safe national parks and game reserves in southern Africa have helped increase white rhino numbers, there is always more work to be done!

white rhino

General white rhino facts:

Scientific Name:
Ceratotherium simum
Southern white rhino:
Ceratotherium simum simum
Northern white rhino:
Ceratotherium simum cottoni
Average weight:
1,800 to 2,700 kg
Height at shoulder:
1.5 to 1.8 meters (5 to 6 ft)
Length (head & body):
3.8 to 5 meters (12.5 to 15 ft)
Front horn length:
94cm to 101cm (although it can reach up to 203cm)
Rear horn length:
Typically 35 to 40 years, have been known to live up to 50 years in captivity.
Up to 50km per hour (28mph)
Social behaviour:
Females often live in a group, known as a ‘crash’. Males are solitary, although will often be seen following a crash of females.
IUCN conservation status:
Near Threatened


16 months
Birth intervals per calf:
2 to 3 years
Female sexual maturity:
6 to 7 years
Male sexual maturity:
7 to 10 years
Calves weaned:
1 year


Wild population:
South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia and Uganda

help protect rhinos in their natural habitat



can help pay for

Essential food and medication for a rhino orphan



can help pay for

Community programmes that improve livelihoods



can help pay for

 Training of anti-poaching teams and tracking dogs


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