Western Black Rhinoceros

Diceros bicornis longipes

The Species

Western Black Rhinoceros (scientific name: Diceros bicornis longipes), a subspecies of the Black Rhinoceros family, was formally given a conservation status of Extinct in 2011.

Estimates say that there were about a million extant black rhinos in Africa at the beginning of the 20th century, and the number had reduced to the vicinity of a couple of thousand individuals by the beginning of the 21st century. Prolonged years of poaching on a mass scale precipitated this rhino-calypse, along with depleting habitat. The two‐horned Western Black Rhinos emerged about 7 to 8 million years ago. Once widespread in the savanna of sub‐Saharan Africa, they had very poor eyesight but excellent senses of smell and hearing. Their diet mainly included leafy plants and shoots around their habitat.

Western Black Rhinoceros

Role in Ecology

Rhinos are considered ‘megaherbivores’ and play an extremely important role in diversifying plant life and creating grazing spots. They are considered an ‘umbrella species’ or a ‘keystone species’ — their survival is closely tied to the survival of other species in their habitat and ecosystem. Rhinos help in maintaining the savanna grassland, a fragile ecosystem that sustains many species. Through their grazing, the rhinos help in increasing biodiversity by allowing other species a better chance of survival. A decline in the population of rhinos starts changing the composition of the grassland, which has a downstream effect on other animals.

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Importance of Biodiversity

Biodiversity (or Biological Diversity) is a term that describes the variety of living beings on earth, and includes diversity across species, within species, and across ecosystems. It is vital to maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. According to scientific estimates there are 8.7 million species on the planet.

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