Majestic Animals – Giants of Time
From everyday walk outdoors, it is easy to spot squirrels lurking, looking for food, pigeons picking crumbs, and raccoons eating from garbage. Going north, one may spot a rabbit, a fox, and even a deer. It is great to see the diversity of animals both in downtown Toronto and further up north. When we think of taking a vacation, sometimes it is a resort, a hiking trip or even an exotic trip to Africa or Asia. In any case, sightseeing is one of the greatest activities, whether it would be a hotel near an open ocean or a hotel in the middle of a jungle, where the sights seeing is a big part.
Aside from travelling, you may close your eyes and visualize that you are in some other country relaxing in a hotel near an ocean or travelling and hiking through woods trying to spot an exotic animal, a rhino perhaps. While travelling all the way to the destination and enjoying the sight, one may be lucky or may not in spotting a rhino. Rhinoceroses are endangered species and spotting them in the wild is quite an art, it is far easier to spot a rhino, by visiting a Toronto Zoo.
Rhinoceros comes from the meaning rhino – nose and ceros- means horn. Known for their horn, rhinos were thought of as mystical creatures called unicorns but represented as white horses with a horn. The myth of a unicorn travelled from Asia and China to Mesopotamia and appeared in Mesopotamian art. The description of a unicorn dates back to 400 b.c in Greek literature. The unicorn’s horn was believed to be medicinal and the belief is sustained in Asia. Rhinos’ biggest threat is poachers that hunt them down for their valuable horns. The highest demand for the rhino horn is in Asia, where horns are used for medicinal purposes and carved artifacts. Keratin is the component making up the horn, the same keratin that makes up human hair and nails, bird’s feathers and cockroaches.
Rhinoceros inhabit eastern and southern Africa, northern India, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. There are five species of rhino; white, black, Sumatran, Javan, and Indian. The main differences between the species are the horns; Indian and Javan rhinos have only one horn, while the other three species have two horns; one small horn followed by one big horn. Javan Rhino is the most endangered; there are less than 100 animals left, followed by the Sumatran Rhino with a population of about 400. The other three species populations are 2,000 and above, making all rhino species endangered.
What makes a rhino so special? Rhinos are known for their short temper and marking their territory with dung that may reach up to one meter in height. Their eyes are located far apart, making them nearsighted, thus, anything startling, makes these animals charge, although scientists believe rhinos have a strong sense of smell. Rhinos are herbivores and charge only when feeling threatened or disturbed from peace.
Rhinos are vital to the ecosystem, by transporting plant seeds over a vast range, for it takes several days for a rhino to digest its food. They are solitary animals and meet during mating season for a brief period of time, thereafter female rhinos take care of their calves for several years until a new calf is born. Rhinos may reach up to two meters in height, weigh over one ton and live up to about 30 years in the wild and up to about 35 to 45 years while in captivity. They like to roll in the mud and stay in watersheds, while other rhino species like to hide in the forest, in order to sustain the heat.
When visiting a zoo, or going on an exotic vacation, like Africa or Asia for sightseeing, noticing a rhinoceros is important even though they are decreasing in population. Rhinoceroses are primitive animals and have a long history on earth; evident through paleontologists’ findings of fossils, dating back to 50 million years ago.
Rhinoceros came from a similar animal to tapir (an animal with small eyes, pointy ears, short legs and a small trunk) and continued to evolve. One of the most fascinating hornless rhino variations is the Indricotherium, reaching 8 meters in length and weighing four times that of an elephant, the largest mammal to walk the earth.
This ancient creature was a herbivore and grazed upon trees. Indricotherium had a broad body, three-toed feet and a relatively small head supported by a long neck. The latest extinct variation of a rhino inhabited Northern Europe 15,000 years ago- the Woolly Rhino. The Woolly Rhino’s name is direct, like mammoths, they were hairy and large in size. They used their horn to remove snow and they were herbivores grazing, just like their predecessors.
Rhinoceroses are majestic animals for their evolution in time, their preference for a peaceful environment, their nurturing care for their young, contribution to the ecosystem by dispersing plant seeds and their horns providing the legendary premise for the mythical unicorn. Of many variations of species of rhinos, only five species remain and are on the endangered list. Whether you will spot one in a zoo, or be lucky enough to see one in the wild, consider you have seen one of the most majestic animals on planet Earth.