21 September 2022

In celebration of World Rhino Day tomorrow, 22 September 2022, the Johannesburg Zoo will be celebrating the day with approximately 900 learners from across the city at the Bandstand from 09h00 to 13h00. This significant event aims to teach the young generation on the plight, vulnerability and conservation of these precious species in the wild, sanctuaries and in zoos.

These majestic animals are often thought to be fierce and unpredictable; nature’s giant armoured rhino is one of the rarest and most fascinating creatures on earth. Prehistoric in appearance, the crowning glory of the Rhinoceros is undoubtedly its formable and sought-after horns, a composition of keratin, the protein found in our hair and nails. These sturdy and heavyset animals found in the grassy savannas of Africa and tropical forests of Asia, are the biggest land animals after the elephant. Savagely hunted down for their horns for medicinal use, the rhino is listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global organization which tracks and safeguards the existence of natural species.

According to research by the World Wildlife Fund, only 27 000 rhinos remain in the wild. At the beginning of the 20th century, half a million rhinos freely roamed Africa and Asia and by the 1970’s their number plunged to only 70 000. Three of the rhino’s species, namely the black, Javan and Sumatran are critically endangered.

There are currently five surviving species of rhinoceros. The African white rhino and black rhino and three Asian rhinos, namely the greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan rhinos. It is estimated that there are now less than 70 Javan rhinos and about only 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild, a startling diminishing number with several species recently declared extinct.

The names, white and black rhino have nothing to do with their colour, in fact, they are much the same colour. It is an error that slipped in during translations from Dutch-Afrikaans to English.

The white rhino which is also called the square-lipped or wide-mouthed rhino, is larger and grazes grass, lives in grassland and the calf walking in front of the mother.

The black rhino is the hook-lipped rhino which browses on leaves and is found in rain forests to arid scrubland and the calf walks behind the mother. The hook-lipped rhino is the more aggressive of the two African species. An adult rhino can weigh up to 700kg though the largest individuals have known to weigh close to 1000kg.

The Johannesburg Zoo, in its conservation efforts, currently houses two species of rhino, the three white rhino and a black rhino. Zimbi, our 28-year-old white female and oldest of the lot, shares the enclosure with the newly acquired and adorable rhinos Thaba, a male and Zelda, a female, both just under a year old, brought in from the Thabazimbi sanctuary in Limpopo province. Shaka, an 8-year-old black rhino is the king of his own enclosure.

The theme for this year’s programme is “Keep the Five Alive” with activities as follows :

Schools Arrive

9:00 – 9:30

Schools ushered to Band Stand

9:30 – 9:45

Opening and Welcome: Nathi Mvula –  Programme Director, Joburg Zoo

9:45 – 10 :00

Keynote Address: Mr. Nathi Mzila – Manager, Customer Care. Joburg Zoo

10:00 – 10:20

Vote of thanks: Mrs. Louise Gordon – Head of the Joburg Zoo

10:20 – 10:25

School items – drama, posters, poetry

10:25 – 11:30

Exhibition, talks and demonstration by environmental organisations

11:30 – 13:00

March around the Zoo

13:00 – 13:30

Programme ends, learners return to school

13:30 – 14:00

Over the years, the increase in numbers of the mighty Rhinoceros and through the anti-poaching conservation efforts by various organisations, has brought hope for the survival of these mysterious and powerful creatures.

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Issued on behalf of

Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo

Media enquiries can be directed to: Noeleen Mattera: Media Relations, Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo T: 011 712-6722 / E: nmattera@jhbcityparks.com; www.jhbcityparksandzoo.com. Follow us on Twitter @JoburgParksZoo, Instagram @JoburgParksZoo, on Facebook @JoburgParks and @TheJohannesburgZoo