Another name for the rhinoceros is the rhino. It means “a horn on its nose.” They are very big animals and have thick folded skin, sturdy legs and big heads. Their horn is made of keratin – the same thing as our fingernails. They have three toes on each foot unlike their close relative the horse that only has one toe. Some species have one horn on their nose and some have two.
Rhinoceros eat leaves and twigs and fruit. They use their horns to shovel the ground for mineral salt; during courtship to fight for a female or over territory; and to defend themselves and their young. Rhinos are an umbrella species. This means that they directly affect many other species of animals, plants, insects, reptiles and fish.
There are five species of rhinos including the Javan, Indian, Sumatran, white, and black. All species, especially the Javan, Sumatran, and black rhinoceroses, are almost completely extinct.
There are not a lot of countries where rhinos live. Black rhinos live mostly in Zimbabwe and South Africa. The white rhino lives mostly in South Africa. The Indian rhino lives only in India and Nepal, although the country of Pakistan has two living Indian rhinos left. The Javan rhino lives only in the western tip of the island of Java in the Udjung Kulon National Park. The island of Java is in Southeast Asia. The Sumatran rhino lives in Burma, Indonesia, and Malaysia. These countries are also located in Southeast Asia.
Rhinos are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an agreement to eliminate illegal trade in animals and plants. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also supports rhino conservation efforts on an international level.
Many countries have created laws to protect rhinos from poachers (illegal hunters). For example, in Kenya and Zimbabwe there are teams of rangers who guard the animals, and most of the rhinos live in nature preserves.
The future of the rhino is in danger because their habitat is being lost to agriculture and development. Rhinos are also endangered because of people. Poachers shoot rhinos for their horns and skin. At one time there were many different kinds of rhinos, so many we can’t name them. Now, thanks to poachers there are only five species of rhino left. They are the black rhino (diceros bicornis), the white rhino (ceratotheriun simum), the Indian rhino (rhinoceros unicornis), the Javan rhino (rhinoceros sondaicus), and the Sumatran rhino (dicerorhinus sumatenis).
The poachers get paid by rich people to get the horns, skin, blood and even dung (poop) of the rhino! Far Eastern countries like China believe that parts of the rhino are valuable for medicines and potions. The horn is thought to be a cure for sore throats, fever, stiff joints and other illnesses. A rhino’s horn used as a dagger handle is a status symbol.
People now are trying to save the rhino. Sometimes they have cut off their horns so poachers won’t shoot them. Unfortunately, even the de-horned rhinos are being killed.
Also the rhinos have been moved to safe places like national parks where armed guards protect them. Fences are built to keep the rhinos in and the poachers out. Zoos are also an alternative to keep the rhinos safe. People will make the most difference in helping the rhino survive.
Rhinos have been around for 50 million years. Don’t be a dodo and let the rhinos join the “dodos” in extinction. Here are some things kids can do to help:
- Organize a “Save the Rhino” art competition. Ask your teacher to help organize the competition. People pay a small fee to enter the competition, draw pictures of rhinos. The winner gets to go to the zoo with his or her family.
- Develop a rhino jigsaw contest. Locate large pictures of rhinos and cut them into puzzle pieces. Contestants pay a small entry fee and whoever completes the puzzle in the fastest amount of time wins.
- Organize a field trip to the zoo. After paying a small fee, people can enter an essay contest with the essay topic being "Why You Think Rhinos Should be Saved."
Money earned could go to any of the numerous organizations that support and protect the rhinoceros.
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Arnold, Caroline. Rhino. New York: Morrow Junior Books. 1995.
Penny, Malcolm. Wildlife at Risk: Rhinos. New York: The Bookwright Press. 1991.
Herbert, Harry John. "Rhinoceros." World Book Online Reference Center. 2007.
6 February 2007 <http://www.worldbookonline.com/wb/Article?id=ar467340>.
"Rhinoceros." Rhinoceros (Endangered Species). Wildlife Species Information: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 6 February 2007. <http://www.fws.gov/species/species_accounts/bio_rhin.html>.
"Save the Rhino." Save The Rhino International. 6 February 2007 <http://www.savetherhino.org>.
Permission to use photographs of rhinos and dodo bird is granted under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License or pictures are in the public domain from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. February 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page>.
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