Wednesday, 4 December 2013

White Rhinoceros

Animal of the Month


What's so special about it?

White Rhinoceros; Photo by Leah Mahoney
The White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simatum) is the largest and most numerous of the world's Rhinoceros species, though that's not to say it is common. Its most distinguishing feature - a large keratin horn, unique in lacking any bone material  - is highly sought-after as a traditional medicine item on illegal South-east Asian markets. Recently however, conservationists have come up with a clever way to decrease the worth of Rhino horn, by injecting it with an anti-theft dye. This doesn't harm the living Rhino, but it does make the trafficking of the horn very difficult if the animal is poached, and also makes the horn poisonous if consumed,
thereby reducing demand for it overall. Unfortunately, it may be too late to save the northern sub-species of this animal, which seems doomed to join the western Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes) in extinction.

Where can I see one?

South Africa forms the stronghold of the southern White Rhino sub-species, with 93% of the total wild population residing there. It is the most common Rhino species held in captivity, with adults, juveniles and newborn calves currently on display at Australia Zoo.

Is there anything similar near Brisbane?

Giant Wombat; Image courtesy of Wikipedia
No! With the exception of a giant bird and crocodile, Australia doesn't have any living 'megafauna' species on the same level as Africa's famous animals. This wasn't always the case however, as herds of Giant Wombats (Diprotodon optatum) roamed our land as recently as 50,000 years ago. These car-sized marsupials were likely to have been seen by the first humans to arrive in Australia, who may have then wiped them out through hunting pressure and fire-stick farming.

 

8 comments:

  1. so sad that injecting dye is the only way to (hopefully) prevent killing and poaching of these creatures.

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    1. Yes it is. Apparently poachers were still killing Rhinos that had their horn sawn off, just so they could collect the keratin from the little stumpy bit that was left over :(

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    2. That's terrible! Very depressing. However....fascinating post - thank Christian.

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  2. I would have been so interesting (and frightening I think) to see these animals - makes me wonder what the first people to get to Australia though about them!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. I agree Stewart! We spend so much time poring over dinosaurs but that period in our country's history is way more intriguing to me, with everything faintly familiar and alarmingly different at the same time!

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  3. you provided the 'learn something new every day' through your post Christian --- I hadn't realized there were Giant Wombats about in yesteryear. Imagine the burrows they'd dig - now would they really?!

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    1. Hah! Maybe? It's possible that only the smaller 'new' species evolved to shelter in burrows, and the bigger ancient ones just dug the ground to eat roots and tubers, etc?

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