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The White Rhinoceros or Square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is one of the five species of rhinoceros that still exist and is one of the few megafaunal species left. It has a wide mouth used for grazing and is the most social of all rhino species. The White Rhino is the most common of all rhinos and consists of two subspecies: the Southern White Rhino, with an estimated 17,480 wild-living animals at the end of 2007 (IUCN 2008), and the much rarer Northern White Rhino. The northern subspecies may have as few as 12 remaining worldwide—8 captive and 4 wild—although the wild population has not been seen since 2006 and may have disappeared entirely.


Taxonomy and naming Edit

A popular theory of the origins of the name White Rhinoceros is a mistranslation from Dutch to English. The English word "white" in English is said to have been derived by mistranslation of the Dutch word "wijd", which means "wide" in English. The word "wide" refers to the width of the Rhinoceros mouth. So early English-speaking settlers in South Africa misinterpreted the "wijd" for "white" and the rhino with the wide mouth ended up being called the White Rhino and the other one, with the narrow pointed mouth, was called the Black Rhinoceros. Ironically, Dutch (and Afrikaans) later used a calque of the English word, and now also call it a white rhino. This suggests, the words origin lie before codification by Dutch writers. A review of Dutch and Afrikaans literature about the rhinoceros, has failed to produce any evidence that the word wijd was ever used to describe the rhino outside of oral use. Other popular theories suggest the name comes from its wide appearance throughout Africa, its color due to wallowing in calcerous soil or bird droppings or because of the lighter colour of its horn. An alternative common name for the White Rhinoceros, more accurate but rarely used, is the square-lipped rhinoceros. The White Rhinoceros' generic name, Ceratotherium, given by the zoologist John Edward Gray in 1868, is derived from the Greek terms keras (κερας) "horn" and therion (θηριον) "beast". Simum, is derived from the Greek term simus (σιμος), meaning "flat nosed".


Southern White Rhinoceros Edit

There are two subspecies of White Rhinos; the Southern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum) and the Northern White Rhinoceros. As of 31 December 2007, there were an estimated 17,480 Southern White Rhino in the wild (IUCN 2008), making them the most abundant subspecies of rhino in the world. South Africa is the stronghold for this subspecies (93.0%), conserving 16,255 individuals in the wild in 2007 (IUCN 2008). There are smaller reintroduced populations within the historical range of the species in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Swaziland, while a small population survives in Mozambique. Populations have also been introduced outside of the former range of the species to Kenya, Uganda and Zambia (Emslie and Brooks 1999; Emslie et al. 2007).

Wild-caught southern whites will readily breed in captivity given appropriate amounts of space and food, as well as the presence of other female rhinos of breeding age. For instance, 91 calves have been born at the San Diego Wild Animal Park since 1972. However, for reasons that are not currently understood, the rate of reproduction is extremely low among captive-born southern white females.

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