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The Rhinos Found in Kenya

There are three species of rhinos in Laikipia, Kenya. The Northern White Rhino, the Southern White Rhino and the Black Rhino. Learn more about each one below.

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Southern White Rhino

Scientific Name
Ceratotherium simum


1,800 - 2,500 kg


Between 19,666 and 21,085 in the world

Population in Kenya ~ 510 individuals


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


Tropical and Subtropical Grasslands, Savannas, and Shrublands


The white rhino is the larger of the two African species. It has a bigger head, due to the muscles that support its neck, as the animal feeds from the ground with its head lowered for much of the day.


Distinctive Characteristics
The white rhinos outline is characterized by a pronounced hump. The head hangs down, low to the ground; they look up only when alarmed. White rhinos have two horns on the end of their nose. The front horn is usually much larger than the inner horn. Rhinos are distinct in that they look very prehistoric; they are the modern day dinosaur.  

Rhinos tend to wallow in the mud, which serves as a cooling technique, effective sun
insect repellent. After wallowing, the visual color of the animal inevitably matches the color of the local soil. In Laikipia, the mud bath can range from a ochre red to a dark shade of brown.


White rhinos are surprisingly agile and can run very fast, up to 40 km/h for short periods.


The Southern white rhino can be found mostly in South Africa, with smaller translocated populations found in Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe


Gestation and Birth
White rhino have a gestation period of approximately 16 months. Females usually give birth for the first time at the age of 6.5-7 years. The interval between calving is 3-4 years. Calves stand up within one hour, immediately attempting to suckle. Mother and calf become inseparable; the calf usually moves in front of its mother and immediately responds to the mother’s behavior. The calf begins grazing at two months, weaning occurs at around one year of age. The calf stays with mother for around three years.


Northern White Rhino

Scientific Name
Ceratotherium simum cottoni


The Northern White Rhino is classified as one of the subspecies of the white rhinoceros. However, there is taxonomic debate and following the phylogenetic species concept, recent research suggests that the northern white rhino may be an altogether different species: Ceratotherium cottoni


1,800 - 2,500 kg


As of 
March 2018, there were only two known rhinos of this subspecies left-
Nanjin and Fatu, both of which are female. These two ladies live on Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Barring the existence of unknown or misclassified male northern white rhinos elsewhere in Africa, this makes the subspecies functionally extinct.


Formerly found in several countries in East and Central Africa.


Formerly grasslands and savanna woodlands


Northern white rhino has a similar size to the southern white rhino.

Wild Population 

The northern white rhino used to range over parts of Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic, and the DRC. From 1970s to 1980s poachers reduced the wild population from 500 to 15. Garamba National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was home to last known surviving population of wild northern white rhinos. Sadly, however, as of 2011, no sightings of northern white rhinos have been seen in Garamba, and it is likely that this population has gone extinct.


The world’s last male northern white rhino died on March 19, 2018.
Learn more about this gentle giant:  

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Black Rhino

Scientific Name
Diceros bicornis


Southern Central black rhino Diceros bicornis minor  

Eastern black rhino Diceros bicornis michaeli

South Western black rhino Diceros bicornis bicornis
Western black rhino Diceros bicornis longipes (declared extinct in 2011)

Eastern black rhino Diceros bicornis michaeli, found in Kenya 


900 - 1,350 kg


Between 5,040 and 5,458 in the world
Population in Kenya ~ 750 individuals


Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi


Tropical and Subtropical Grasslands, Savannas, and Shrublands; Deserts and Xeric Shrublands


The black rhino is smaller than the white rhino. It stands at approximately 1.6 meters at the shoulder.


Distinctive Characteristics
The black rhino has less of a pronounced hump on the back of their necks. They have a smaller head. They are browsers and have a hooked lip, which allows them to browse on shrubs.

Black rhinos can be either solitary of territorial, or semi-local and less aggressively-territorial, depending on the habitat.  Typically black rhinos are found alone, but there is evidence that they are much more social than previously thought. The male territory ranges from 3.9-4.7km. The female territory ranges from 5.8-7.7km and they are usually found in the presence of their latest calf. Scent marking is a crucial method of communication for rhinos. Urine sprays are used by both sexes for marking of territory. Dung piles, known as ‘middens’ is another form of communication.


Black rhino can move at very fast speeds; records indicate highs of 55 km/h.  


Gestation and Birth
Black rhinos have a gestation period of approximately 15-17 months. Females usually give birth for the first time at the age of 3.5-4 years. At birth, calves weigh between 30-45kg and usually stand within a few hours. Mother and calf become inseparable for about 2-4 years, when the mother rejects the calf, typically when she is ready to calve again.  


Rhino Facts

  • There is actually no color difference between the black and white rhinos species. The “white” component of the name may have resulted from a mistranslation of the Afrikaans word “wyd” meaning “wide”.

  • Footprint: like all rhino species, they have three toes, and thus three stout nails, which leave impressions on the ground to the front and side of a softer wrinkled sole. Their front feet are bigger than the back feet.

  • There are five species of rhino world-wide: Sumatran Rhino, Javan Rhino, Black Rhino, Greater One-Horned Rhino and White Rhino.

      Learn more at Save the Rhino International

  • In 1970, over 20,000 black rhinos roamed Kenya. However, during a period of about 30 years, the black rhino population declined by a staggering 97%.

  • What’s the craze about rhino horn?

Today the demand for rhino horn comes mostly from Asia and the Middle East, where rhino horn is falsely considered to have medical properties and is used as a symbol of status. A kilo of rhino horn can fetch up to $60,000 on the black market. Ironically, rhino horn is made up of keratin- the same substance as human fingernails and hair.



Rhino Conservation Efforts in Kenya

  • Conservation efforts for black rhinos have been successful, but they still need a lot of help, including yours. Take a look at the #RhinoRevivalFund.

  • In 1993, Ol Pejeta had 20 black rhinos. Through successful breeding and tough anti-poaching operations, the number has flourished to over 115.

  • Lewa Conservancy, the sister conservancy to Borana, reached its black rhino carrying capacity in 2013 and moved 11 black rhinos to Borana Conservancy.

  • Ol Jogi Conservancy has been successful in its rhino conservation efforts and has grown its population over the years.

Recommended Books and Movies

  • Breaking Their Silence Women on the Frontline of the Poaching War

  • Sides of A Horn 

  • Why Are Rhino Horns Worth More Than Gold?



  • Stroop: Journey into the rhino horn war

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