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White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) Fact Sheet, 2003  

Last Updated: Feb 11, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) Fact Sheet, 2003

Northern White Rhino
Image Credit: San Diego Zoo Global. All Rights Reserved.

TaxonomyPhysical Characteristics

Describer (Date): Burchell (1817)

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Perissodactyla

Family: Rhinocerotidae

Genus: Ceratotherium

Species: C. simum

Subspecies: C. s. simum (southern)
Subspecies: C.s. cottoni (northern)

Body Weight:
Males: 2300 kg (5070 lbs)
Females: 1800 kg (3,968 lbs)

Body Length (head body):  360 - 420 cm (142-165 in)

Tail Length: 80 - 100 cm (31-39 in)

Pelage: Hair only at tip of tail and fringes of ears

Horns: Two horns on rostrum, one in front of the other

Distribution & StatusBehavior & Ecology

Range: Disjunct populations in east-central Africa and southern Africa

  • C. s. cottoni: last remaining sighted in Democratic Republic of Congo, 2008
  • C. s. simum: predominantly in South Africa; few dispersed across 6 other south African countries

Habitat: Grasslands and savannahs; do not like closed forest or thick brush.

IUCN Status:

  • C. s. cottoni, CR - Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct in the Wild); last sighted in 2008
  • C. s. simum, NT - Near Threatened

CITES Appendix: C. s. simum from South Africa Appendix II; all other populations of both subspecies Appendix I

Population in Wild:  

  • C. s. cottoni - None sighted since 2008; captive population only
  • C. s. simum - c. 20,405; as of mid-2013

Locomotion: Fairly sedentary; do not disperse very rapidly

Activity Cycle: Most active (feeding) early morning and late afternoon; rest during midday. At night, alternate between resting and feeding

Social Groups: Not very social. Territorial bulls almost always alone. Females with calves or unrelated adolescents. Groups of adolescents

Diet: Consume short grasses

Predators: Humans; young may be vulnerable to lions.

Reproduction & DevelopmentSpecies Highlights

Sexual Maturity:
Females: 6.5 - 7 years
Males: 10-12 years

Gestation: 16 months

Litter Size: 1

Age at Weaning: c.1 year

Longevity: + 50 years

Feature Facts: C.s. simum went from 20 individuals left in 1895 to 11,640 in 2002. The number had increased to 20,405 by 2013. C. s. cottoni decreased from 2,230 in 1960 to about 30 individuals in 2002, representing a 98.7% decline. This number had further declined to only 3 as of 2015 November 22.

Although C.s. simum is considered a conservation success story, rhinos are still heavily hunted for their horns, and therefore must be carefully managed in the wild.

Society Press: San Diego Zoological Society was the last zoo in the world to have C. s. cottoni in its collections. Nola, a 41 year old female, passed away 2105 November 22.  The remaining three northern white rhinos are two females and a male at Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

94 southern white rhinos (C. s. simum) have been born at the Wild Animal Park between 1971 and 2015. 


About This Fact Sheet

© 2015 San Diego Zoo Global. Minor updates in 2013,  2015.

How to cite: White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) Fact Sheet, 2003. c2015. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Global; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd].
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Jan 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Global makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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