What Do Rhinos Eat?

By Benjamin Elisha Sawe on October 4 2019 in Environment

Black rhino eating from a bush in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Black rhino eating from a bush in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Rhinoceros, often simply to referred to as rhinos, are large herbivores that are easily identified by their horned snout. The name rhinoceros is derived from the Greek words rhino, which means "nose," and ceros, meaning "horn." Five species of rhinos exist, as well as eleven subspecies. Two rhino species are native to Africa, while three are native to South Asia. All rhino species are herbivores with a plant-based diet.

Feeding Habits Of Rhinos

Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)

Sumatran rhinos feed on a wide variety of plants and enjoy the leaves and fruits of various plant species. They are referred to as opportunistic feeders because they eat whatever is available at that time.

Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus)

Javan rhinos prefer areas that contain bodies of water, particularly in lowlands. Their diet primarily consists of moist foliage, young shoots, twigs, and fallen fruits from trees and shrubs. Their diet is considered diverse and varied.

Indian Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis)

Indian rhinos feed through grazing, preferring grasses to taller plants and shrubs. They prefer wetlands and spend most of their time in cool water. The species also consume aquatic plants, which are typically juicy and succulent.

White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum)

White rhinos have a wide, flat upper lip, which is a unique adaptation for feeding and allows the animal to graze on fairly short grasses. White rhinos are exclusively grazers.

Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis)

Black rhinos have a pointed upper lip that allows the species to pull twigs and leaves, as well as strip wood. Black rhinos feed on succulent plants that they can pull using their hooked lip. During the wet season, when plants are lush, the black rhino consumes the entire plant rather than just the leaves or fruits. Unlike white rhinos, black rhinos consume little grass.

Differences Among Species

There are two species of African rhinos, the black rhino and white rhino, and three Asian species, the Javan rhino, Indian rhino, and Sumatran rhino. African rhinos, along with the Sumatran rhino, have two horns, while the Javan rhino and Indian rhino have only one horn. The Sumatran rhino, Javan rhino, and black rhino are listed as critically endangered. The white rhino and black rhino are both gray but are differentiated by the shape of the lip. White rhinos have a relatively flat or squared lip, while black rhinos have a pointed upper lip.

Threats To Rhino 

Some rhinos have one horn and others have two horns. Rhinoceros horns are popular as ornaments and in traditional medicine for its alleged healing properties in China and some Southeast Asian countries although scientific evidence of such properties does not exist. As a result, rhinos have been hunted almost to extinction. Their priced horns are also sold as trophies or decoration. The largest market for rhino horns is in Vietnam, where the price by weight on the black market is almost the same as gold.

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