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Africa’s Big 5 – Rhino

October 11, 2017  By: Gretchen

Africa’s famous ‘Big 5’ species are made up of lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and Cape buffalo, and the term came about during the colonial period to refer to the five animals that were considered the most difficult and dangerous to hunt. Now, seeing Africa’s ‘Big 5’ is one of the main goals for many photographic safari enthusiasts.

Today, two types of rhino are found in Africa. Once on the brink of extinction, Africa’s white rhino was brought back to a sustainable population early last century. A small, isolated group of white rhinos were found in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal, and when conservationists realized what species they were, they raced to protect the animals and to reintroduce them to other parks to ensure multiple viable populations could thrive. Black rhino are fewer in number, and are more often seen in Kenya and Tanzania.

Today, all rhino face challenges, and are most threatened by poaching for their horns. The Save the Rhino Foundation reports that more than 7,137 African rhinos have been lost to poaching in just a decade. The horns are made of keratin – the same as hair and fingernails – and have no proven medicinal value, but that has not stopped the demand.

Read on to learn a few rhinoceros facts, and about some charities working to ensure their continued survival.

  • There are five different species of rhinoceros, three are native to southern Asia and two are native to Africa.

  • The African species are the black rhinoceros and white rhinoceros, while the Asian species are the Indian, Javan, and Sumatran rhinoceros.

  • White rhino are the largest of the five species and can weigh more than 7,700 pounds!

  • White rhinos are generally considered the second largest land mammal (after the elephant).

  • Black rhino are smaller but and are generally more aggressive.

  • The black rhino, Javan rhino, and Sumatron rhino species are listed as being critically endangered.

  • Rhinoceros are herbivores (plant eaters). White rhino are grazers, eating mostly grasses like cows. Black rhino are browsers, eating a combination of grasses and leaves from bushes.

  • A group of rhinoceros is called a ‘herd’ or a ‘crash’.

  • Despite their names, black and white rhinos are actually gray in color.

Contact us to learn the best parks in Africa to spot a white or black rhino!

Many groups are working hard to protect rhinos from poaching and habitat loss. Here are a few of our favorites:

Rhino Conservation Botswana

Rhino Conservation Botswana works with its partners, including the governments of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe and tourism operators, to help reintroduce black and white rhinos to Botswana. They are also working to build the populations of rhinos living wild and free in the Okavango Delta. They have developed a world-class monitoring system to watch over and protect Botswana’s black and white rhinos after their release, to ensure their well being and future breeding success. To learn more about RCB, visit

African Wildlife Foundation

African Wildlife Foundation is working with other conservation organizations and governments to spread public awareness about the illegal rhino horn trade, the horrors of poaching, and dwindling rhino populations. They also constructed a rhino sanctuary in Kenya; actively recruit, train, and equip wildlife scouts; and work within the legal system to try and protect rhinos and strengthen law enforcement.

Wildlife Protection Solutions

Wildlife Protection Solutions is working to protect rhinos and other threatened and endangered species using advanced technology. Their sensor system gives wildlife rangers and stakeholders a broader view into the areas and the species they are protecting, and allows them to respond to threats in real-time. Their technology also allows for wildlife monitoring, including for incredibly rare species, such as the Sumatran rhino.

International Rhino Foundation

For 25 years, the International Rhino Foundation has championed the survival of the world’s rhinos through conservation and research. They operate on-the-ground programs in all areas of the world where rhinos live in the wild. In five countries across two continents, they support viable populations of the five remaining rhino species and the communities that coexist with them.

We at Africa Adventure Consultants support wildlife conservation efforts in many ways. We give $25 per safari to a worthy African charity (Wildlife Protection Solutions is one of our preferred charities). Additionally, every time we send a traveler on safari, it contributes to wildlife conservation – both through park fees, and through the economic ripple that is created. When wildlife has value to local communities and big government, it gets protection. Thanks to our clients who make a difference in this way!

Interested in learning more about how going on safari helps conservation efforts?

Related Reading

You can have a good chance of seeing rhinos in several African countries, especially South Africa. Learn more about the country and see a selection of our sample South African safaris.

Interested in reading more about rhinos before planning a customized safari? Check out related blog: An interview with Map Ives, Founder and Director of Rhino Conservation Botswana