All species of rhinos are Endangered, mostly due to poaching for their horns. Rhino horns are used in many cultures for medicinal reasons, and some people believe that the horn, when ground up, makes a potent aphrodisiac. Knoxville Zoological Gardens is home to the White Rhinoceros or Square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). This species is one of the five species of rhinoceros that still exists. There are two subspecies of White Rhinos (as of 2005); Knoxville Zoological Gardens exhibits the South African Southern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum ssp. simum). This subspecies has a wild population of about 11,000, making them the most abundant subspecies of rhino in the world. Their successful comeback is primarily due to efforts of conservationists, researchers and concerned individuals (especially in South Africa). The Northern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum ssp. cottoni), formerly found in several countries in East and Central Africa, is considered Critically Endangered.
Knoxville Zoo is third in the nation in breeding white rhinos. As of 2006, 28 Southern White Rhinos have been born at Knoxville Zoological Gardens since 1976. Rhinos have two horns, and they can be as long as 5 feet. Their horns are made of tightly packed keratin fibers, which are also what make up hair. If the horns are torn or broken off, new horns will begin to grow. Unlike true horns, which have a bony core attached to the skull, rhino horns do not have a bony core and are attached only to the skin of the nose. These amazing animals are also capable of going four or five days without water.
Rhinos make various sounds:
- Loud cry like an elephant's trumpet
The white rhino usually lives in groups of up to 14 animals, with a dominant bull, or subordinate bulls with an adult female. When a subordinate bull encroaches on the territory of a solitary bull, there is some aggression, but it is mostly for display. They only time the fights lead to gorging and ramming is when there are two bull rhinos fighting over a single female during mating season. When a rhino detects danger, all the members of the group will stand in a circle with their horns pointing outward.
The White Rhinoceros has a noticeable hump on the back of its neck which supports its large head. Each of the rhino's four feet has three toes. Have you ever wondered why white rhinos look so dirty? White rhinos like to wallow in the mud to cool off and keep their skin moist. White rhinos at Knoxville Zoo are southern white rhinos, and they differ from other rhinos because they are entirely grazers. Rhinos can weigh over 3 tons, can run up to 25 mph and have an excellent sense of smell. They have tubular ears that can swivel to pick up sounds. On the other hand, rhinos have poor vision and cannot detect a motionless object at a distance of 100 feet.