Knowing the Difference between Black and White

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It may seem easy to tell the difference between game species on your game drive with the help of a guide book or mobile phone application, and in the case of the rhino as simple as black and white. However, the assistance of a good game guide and tracker cannot be underestimated, especially for those on a first time safari outing.

The rhino is in fact a good example of this, the distinction between black and white rhinos has nothing to do with colour at all and is actually a bit of a mystery in the conservation world.

It is generally believed that the expression white rhino, Ceratotherium simum, is a corruption of the Dutch word 'wijd' meaning 'wide', in reference to its square shaped muzzle. This rhino is also sometimes referred to as the square-lipped rhino. The term black rhino, could have been adopted as the opposite of white, or in reference to the fabled bad-tempered behaviour of Diceros bicornis.

As you can tell from their Latin names these two creatures have several differences, but colour is not one of them. Both kinds of rhinoceroses are actually greyish beneath the shade of their latest mud bath.

However, a good ranger will be able to tell you which type of rhino, or any other animal, has passed by without even laying eyes on it.

Tell tale signs

The white rhino's heel print and crease marks left by the foot are more prominent, and their two side toes are also situated closer to the large middle toe than their black cousins. Overall a white rhino print is about 29cm long as opposed to the 25cm track left by the black rhino, and they tend to drag their bottom lip along the ground, leaving a wide scrape mark.

Black rhinos have a triangular hooked top lip which makes eating leaves easier, perfect for these solitary browsers who usually hang around in dense thorn thickets. Contrastingly, the white rhino has the wide top lip of a grazer, and is more likely to be found in small groups on the flat plains.

Standing 1.6m at the shoulder black rhinos weigh around 1 400kg while the 1.8 m tall white rhino tips the scales at 2 tons.

Be sure to ask your ranger the difference between black and white when next you are on a game drive.

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Friday, 20 October 2017