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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Wildlife Photography - World Rhino Day 2016

Today is World Rhino Day. I have recently returned from my Southern Africa wildlife photo shoot testing the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II camera. Came across Black and White Rhinos and their calves. The poaching epidemic is getting worse in many parts of the world but anti-poaching and conservation efforts are making a heroic stand between the Rhinos and extinction.

Anti poaching aerial patrol over Kruger National Park, South Africa

Rhino horns are essentially made from the same material as our nails, namely keratin. There is no scientific proof it has any medicinal value. What kind of government condones such a barbaric practice and individual buys such a blood tainted product, thereby condemning a species to possible extinction and depriving future generations of another animal to admire and wonder? Do they have no decency left in their hearts? You can follow my travels on Twitter , Facebook and see my works on

The Indian Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) is the largest of the three Asian Rhino species. It has a single horn which can grow to almost 2 feet in length. The horn is not boney but composed of keratin, a protein also found in human hair and nails. The hairless skin of the Indian Rhino is grayish-brown and has many loose folds as well as lumps, known as tubercles, giving them an armor-plated appearance. The male Indian Rhino is bigger and heavier than the female. It can weigh up to almost 3 tons and has large, sharp incisors that may be used in fights over females during the breeding season.

Indian Rhino and calf, Kaziranga National Park, India

At the turn of the 20th century, the population of Indian Rhinos plummeted to about 20 individuals. Through strict protection in India and Nepal, this species has been brought back from the brink of extinction, with about 2000+ animals existing today. The Indian Rhino is listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that trade in this species is only permitted under exceptional circumstances.

An Asian Rhino Action Plan has been established to maintain a wild population of at least 3,000 animals by the year 2020. Habitat improvement and extension, public education and an increase in anti-poaching measures are in place to try and achieve this goal. Although hunting was an important factor in the Indian Rhino's decline, poaching is now the greatest threat to this species' survival. With no scientific proof of its medicinal value, the Rhino horn is used in traditional Asian medicines, primarily for the 'treatment' of a variety of ailments ranging from epilepsy, fevers, and strokes. Asian Rhino horn is believed to be more 'effective' than African horn.

The Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) is the poster child of the international effort to Save The Rhinos. There are five different species of Rhinos in the world - Black, White, Indian, Javan and Sumatran. Black rhinoceros are in fact grey in color and are distinguished from the other African species, the White Rhino by its pointed, prehensile upper lip. White rhinoceros have square lips. Both African species have two horns, made from clumped fibers rather than bone, similar to the material that make up our nails.

Black Rhino making a last stand in South Africa

Black Rhinos are critically endangered. Their numbers dropped to about 2,500 individuals a decade or so ago. A robust, worldwide conservation effort have stabilized the loss and a partial recovery of the population in a number of countries. The most successful effort have involved the rigorous protection of rhinoceros in fenced sanctuaries, often in partnerships between the State and private sectors, or in intensely protected unfenced zones within larger areas. Dehorning has also been used in some countries to reduce the incentive for poachers. By the turn of the 21st century, Black rhinoceros population had increased to over 3,000.

The White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum) is the largest of the five Rhino species and one of the world’s biggest land animals, second only to the African and Asian elephant in size. It can grow to about 12 feet long, 6 feet at the shoulder and weigh up to 6,000 pounds. This gentle and enormous animal is in fact, slate-grey to yellowish-brown in color. The ‘white’ likely comes from a mistranslation of the Afrikaner word for ‘wide’, referring to the animal’s wide mouth. Indeed, this species is often called the ‘square-lipped rhinoceros’ because of its broad, square, rather than pointed, flexible upper lip, differentiating it from the Black Rhino. The smallest Rhino is the Sumatran. They can grow to about 9 feet in length, stand up to 4 feet and weigh around 1,800 pounds.

Born To Run - White Rhino calf with mom

White Rhinoceros can also be distinguished from its African cousin by its longer skull, less sharply defined forehead and more pronounced shoulder hump. Like the Black rhinoceros and Sumatran rhinoceros, this species has two horns, the front being longer and can reach over 4 feet in length. Two geographically separated subspecies of white rhinoceros are recognized, the northern and the southern. The northern subspecies is now among the rarest of all rhinos, occurring only in the Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. Meanwhile, the southern subspecies is the most numerous of all the world’s rhinos, with its stronghold in South Africa. Much smaller populations exist in Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda and Kenya.

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