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One of two species of African rhino, white rhinos are the most populated of all five rhino species. They can be found in several range states across Africa, although about 98% of the entire population are concentrated into South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya and Esatini (formerly Swaziland).

White rhinos are the larger of the two species of African rhino and the world’s second largest land mammal after elephants. They have the most complex social structure of all five species of rhino and are less aggressive than their black counterparts.

Easily identifiable by their large square or long mouths which lends them the nickname of “square lipped rhino”, the white rhino isn’t actually white, but grey.  There are several theories as to where their name derived, the most popular is thought to be a mistranslation of the Afrikaans word “weit” which means wide (referring to the animals wide muzzle and not it’s colouring).

Scientific name:

Ceratotherium simum


Square lipped rhino or wide mouth rhino


Southern white - Ceratotherium simum simum

Northern white - Ceratotherium simum cottoni

IUCN conservation status:

Southern white - Near threatened (NT)

Northern white - Extinct in the wild (EW)

CITES appendix status:

All Southern white rhinos are listed appendix. I with the exception of populations in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) & South Africa which are both appendix. 2

Wild population:

Southern white - 17,500 - 18,000 (estimated)

Northern white - 2 females (Najin and daughter Fatu).  The last male northern white rhino (Sudan) died on 19th March 2018.


South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Swaziland, Uganda


African long and short grasses & Savannahs


Grasses and ground vegetation

white rhinos are grazers (the broad mouth aids feeding on grasses)

Average height:

1.5 - 1.8 meters

Average weight:

1800kg - 2700kg

Average length:

3.8 - 5 meters

Skin colour:

Dark grey

Average horn length:

Front horn: 94cm to 101cm (but they can be longer)

Rear horn: 56cm


Up to 50km/h (running)


Males are solitary.  Females often live in groups of up to seven


Not as aggressive as black rhinos although they are territorial

Average lifespan:

40 - 50 years (in the wild)


16 months (rhino calves weigh approximately 150lbs when born)

Birth intervals:

Every 2.5 - 5 years

Sexual maturity:

6 -7 years (females)

7 - 8 years (males)

Fun facts:

The scientific name for the white rhino is Ceratotherium simum "cerato" meaning "horn" "therium“, meaning "wild beast" and "simum“ meaning "flat nosed" in Greek

White rhinos get enough moisture from their diet that they can go four to five days without drinking

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