Looking back, I realize I haven't given much attention to rhinos, so here is an effort to change that. Below are six questions you didn't realize you had about rhinos. Don't click away, they're pretty interesting!
Q: How many rhino species are there?
A: Five, give or take a few.
There are five overarching species of rhino, and all are native to either Africa or Asia: White, black, Sumatran, Javan and the Greater One-Horned rhino. There are some species (mostly those in Africa) that have been split into Northern and Southern subspecies, to help track their populations. Therefore, you might see an article about the Northern white rhino, which is a subspecies of the white rhino in Africa (and is considered extinct).
Q: Do rhinos make noise?
A: Yes, and they sound adorable!
Rhinos can make a variety of sounds, including high-pitched whines. snorts, rumbles and grunts. Although rhinos aren't particularly social creatures, they do talk to one another, especially babies and mothers.
Q: What do rhinos do for fun?
For many animals, including rhinos, painting is a great form of enrichment. Enrichment in zoo animals is important to keep their brain stimulated and to encourage social behaviors. For rhinos, as with many other species, this means creating art. In fact, the Cincinnati Zoo has a program called Rhino Rembrandts, where guests can pay for a rhino resident to create a masterpiece right before their eyes.
How do rhinos paint, you ask? With their lips, mostly, although a former Denver Zoo rhino painted by holding a brush in his mouth.
Q: What is a group of rhinos called?
A: A crash!
There's not much to say about this one, except that it's a pretty cool name for a group.
Q: Do elephants and rhinos get along?
Rhinos are stubborn creatures (as are elephants sometimes), and are not always willing to cooperate. This means they don't always agree that elephants are the top mammals in the pecking order at the water hole. I'm sure you have probably heard of or seen rhinos and elephants fighting; but understand first that this doesn't happen all the time.
When rhinos and elephants fight, there is always a reason. Sometimes it's because the rhino would not make room for the elephant herd at the watering hole, and sometimes it's because a bull elephant is in musth and has way to many hormones floating around inside. Either way, the result isn't pretty. Elephants and rhinos are naturally calm creatures, but when you get them riled, they're fierce fighters.
Rhinos are also kind of jumpy. They don't have the greatest eyesight, so they rely on hearing and smell to guide their behavior. But if something triggers a rhino's defense reflexes, it's bound to charge. This could mean that some of the elephant-rhino encounters are really no one's fault, they're just a result of a misunderstanding.
But, just in case, elephants and rhinos aren't put in the same zoo exhibit.
Q: Do rhinos have friends?
A: Not necessarily, although they are fond of birds.
Rhinos aren't particularly social creatures. For the most part, the only time you'll catch two rhinos together is during mating season and when a mother is raising her calf. And they don't really hang out with other animals. But there are some birds that like to chill with them.
The African oxpecker (also called a tickbird) hangs around rhinos to eat the ticks that bother him, and also eats any parasites that could cause infection. Another bird, the cattle egret, can be seen riding on a rhino's back (although it follows many large mammals around) in order to eat the animals the rhino disturbs as he moves. In turn the rhino has an alarm system that alerts him by flying off when danger is near.
So there you have it, six rhino facts that you can share with your friends. Look for more in the upcoming weeks as I delve further into my study of rhinos.
Kerry Skiff is a conservation advocate and recent journalism graduate of Northern Kentucky University. She follows the ivory trade around the world, and uses her voice to educate Americans about their role in animal conservation.