~An endangered species~
4th Hour Language Arts
January 2, 2001
The black rhinoceros or rhinos are a very unique animal of Africa. They are important for the balance of nature. They are a large stocky animal. Their size is 5 to 6 feet tall at the shoulder and 10 to 12 feet long. Their weight can range in from 1,000 to 3,000 pounds. Rhinos are naturally gray in color but will often take on the color of the local soil. The horn of a rhino is not a true horn. It is not attached to the skull. It grows from the skin and is made up of keratin fibers, the same materials found in hair and finger nails. Black rhinos have a prehensile lip that is used much like a finger to select and pick the leaves and twigs they prefer to eat. Their habitat is in the bushy plains, rugged hills, and scrublands in isolated areas of Central and South Africa. Rhinos are heavy browsers that hinder woody plants from dominating their habitat. This is important because it allows grasses to grow, which provide food for many other animals on the grassy plains. Black rhinos travel alone except while breeding or raising offspring. Juveniles remain with the mother until they are completely weaned, just before a new a baby is born.
Young rhinos are occasionally prey for many items for large carnivores such as lions and hyenas. People of some cultures believe that rhino horns contain medicinal properties. This is most likely not true but is one of the primary reasons rhinos are poached. They are sought after by poachers who sell their horns, which are very valuable. Rhinos are becoming closer to being extinct.
There are fewer that 2,550 black rhinos alive today. Conservation efforts include capture and relocation of the animals. Protected preserves for rhinos have been established. Strict penalties for poaching, which can mean death in some countries, are being enforced by law.
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