Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
Brace yourself for the one-ton armored carrier known as the rhinoceros—the world’s second largest land animal.
Meet a “crash” of black and white rhinoceroses—the massive, heavy-horned mammal that looks downright prehistoric—and is! This primeval herbivore (plant eater) dates back millions of years to the Miocene era.
Rhinos at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park
Guests can visit a herd (crash) of white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) and black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) at the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction and on the Wild Africa Trek at Disney's Animal Kingdom park.
Rhinoceros in the Wild
The black rhinoceros is found in small pockets of eastern and southern Africa, primarily in grasslands, savannas and tropical bush lands with a variety of woody shrubs and herbaceous plants. The white rhinoceros is found in bush country and open grassy flatlands throughout central and south Africa.
Threats to Black and White Rhinos
Rhinos rank among the most endangered species on Earth, with 3 of the 5 rhino species listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Between 1960 and 1995, large-scale poaching caused a 97.6% collapse in black rhino populations. Now a deadly new wave of rhino poaching is creating the risk of extinction once again.
Disney Conservation Efforts
The Walt Disney Company is committed to the protection of rhinos and the natural habitats they need to survive and thrive. Find out what Disney is doing for endangered rhinoceroses—and how you can help!
The rhinos’ large horns, stocky frame and thick skin make them invulnerable to nearly all predators—except one.
People, Populations & Poaching
The main threat to rhinos is people. As human populations grow and expand, rhino habitats shrink. Being forced to live in closer proximity inevitably leads to human-rhino conflicts, which often results in the retaliatory killing of rhinos. But a much more deadly threat is from illegal hunting (poaching) of rhinos for their iconic horns, which are highly prized on the black market.
Rhino horn, skin, blood and urine have been used in Asian cultures as presumed medicinal cure-alls for centuries. During the 1970s and 1980s, rhino horn was widely used in the carving of Middle Eastern dagger handles for traditional coming-of-age ceremonies. As a result, the world's population of black rhinos fell from 65,000 to 4,000 between 1970 and 1986. Rhino poaching was then banned and rhino populations began to recover. But a new demand for rhino horns in Asia today is causing a staggering increase in poaching. In 2015, more than 1,300 rhinos were poached. In South Africa alone, more than 1,200 rhinos were poached, a 9,000% increase since 2007.
Disney Is Helping Rhinos in the Wild
In Indonesia, Disney is working with the International Rhino Foundation to reverse the decline of Sumatran rhinos. The critically endangered Sumatran is the smallest member of the rhinoceros family and is known for its distinct hairiness. In fact, babies start out quite fuzzy and adults have fine hairs all over their bodies. While the exact number of remaining Sumatran rhinos is difficult to determine, some estimate the current population is less than 100 individuals, found in several protected areas in Sumatra and Borneo.
Disney’s support is helping nonprofit organizations address the threats of habitat loss and poaching through anti-poaching patrols and conservation breeding programs that help increase rhino populations. Disney support also helps these organizations work with local communities to stop forest encroachment and with the Indonesian government to implement a national protection strategy.
White Rhinos in Uganda No Longer Extinct!
The success of the rhino breeding program at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park—9 rhino births and counting!—has enabled us to make a direct contribution to the conservation of rhinos in the wild. In 2006, 2 white rhinos, both born at Disney, traveled from Florida to Africa in the first-ever reintroduction of white rhinos from the United States to Uganda. The white rhino population there had been extinct since 1982—could our American-born rhinos help re-establish white rhino populations? It was a bold experiment, but 5 years later, in 2011, a healthy 110-pound (50 k) calf was born. Malaika (“Angel” in Swahili) is the first female white rhinoceros born in Uganda in 30 years!
Rhinos and Comics
Disney is sharing the story of Sumatran rhinos with millions of Indonesians in our Donal Bebek (Donald Duck) comics. Celebrating its 40th year of publication, Donal Bebek enjoys widespread distribution within Indonesia, and we are excited to introduce Bangga the Sumatran rhino into the story. In addition to teaching people about the importance of helping to protect Sumatran rhinos and their forest home, the comic addresses what people can do now to ensure the future of these magnificent animals.
Our habitats are designed to enrich the lives of our black and white rhinoceros herds based on the specific needs of each species.
Rhino Crash Pad
The rhinoceros habitats at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park have been designed to enrich the lives of our rhinos based on detailed research into their natural histories. The rhino habitats are made to feel as authentic as possible, with hills, tall grasses, shade trees, rocks, shrubs, dead trees and stumps that provide opportunities for the rhinos to rest, communicate, interact, hide and explore just as they would on a real African savanna.
Wallowing in Riches
Our passion at Disney is to create environments that enrich our animals’ lives by increasing their physical activity, offering them real choices and encouraging them to display natural behaviors. Piles of fallen tree branches are placed in our rhino habitats to encourage natural horn use and scratching—which is as enjoyable for our rhinos as they are for our Guests! Mud baths are added for rolling and wallowing, which helps rhinos keep cool, get rid of parasites and prevent sunburn. These wallows are updated regularly with new clay—and even moved to new locations—to stimulate the rhinos’ investigative behaviors and maintain their interest in the environment.
Veterinary Care and Animal Training
Exceptional veterinary care is a top priority at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park—and our rhinos participate in making that happen! Our animal care experts use positive training techniques to teach rhinos to present parts of their body through a barrier for a daily visual examination, for example, to ensure they are free of cuts and abrasions. In return the rhinos receive tasty rewards—alfalfa hay for white rhinos, sweet potatoes and carrots for black rhinos—that help motivate our rhino “patients” to be patient as they line up and stand in a particular spot (behind a safety barrier, of course) for a voluntary vaccination, or even a blood draw!
Rhinos rely on their keen sense of hearing and smell to alert them to danger, locate food and find other rhinos.
Horns of Plenty
The name rhinoceros means “nose horn” in Greek. Made of compressed keratin, the same material in hair and fingernails, rhino horns aren’t true horns because they aren’t attached to the skull—if the horn is broken, it will continue to grow! Rhinos use their horns as stabbing weapons against predators and to remove bark, break off high branches and excavate soil at salt licks. Black, white and Sumatran rhinos have two horns, while the Indian rhino and Javan rhino have only one horn.
Black and white rhinos are both gray! What differentiates them is not their coloring but their mouths. White rhinos are grazers that feed on grass and low vegetation, so they have a wide, square mouth and lips adapted to pulling up large swaths of grasses. Black rhinos are browsers—they get most of their sustenance from eating trees and bushes—so they have a triangular, hooked upper lip that can grab tree branches and pull down leaves. Why the confusing names? The Afrikaans word describing the white rhino’s mouth—weit, or "wide"—sounded like "white" to early English settlers in South Africa!
Despite their massive size—white rhinos can weigh well over 2 tons (1,800 kg)—rhinos are surprisingly agile, and can achieve speeds up to 30 mph (48 kph). Like horses and zebras, rhinos are grazing herbivore mammals with an odd number of “toes” on their rear feet—3 per rhino foot, 1 per horse and zebra foot. And like their cousins, rhinos can gallop—running with all 4 feet off the ground!
Rhinoceros have thick, protective skin—up to 2 inches (5 cm) thick. But while rhinos look tough, their skin is actually quite sensitive. Their skin can sunburn, and biting insects really do "bug" them—which is why rhinos love to wallow in mud. The mud acts as both sunscreen and insect repellent!
White rhinos have a unique way of communicating—through smells, courtesy of communal dung heaps called middens, which act as a kind of message board for rhinos. Through smell recognition, the scents communicate the health and status of the sender, with messages like, “I’m the dominant male, and I was here 6 hours ago” or “I’m female, new in town, and ready to breed.”
What can one person or family do to protect rhinos and their habitats—more than you think!
Learn More About Rhinos!
Visit your local zoo to observe rhinos up close, and ask if the zoo needs volunteers. Spread the word about threats to rhinos by doing a school project on them, or joining a local conservation organization.
Use Your Buying Power
Protect nature by purchasing only "wildlife friendly" products, and never buy products made from rhino horns.
Show Your Support
Follow organizations like the Disney Conservation Fund that are active in rhino research and conservation.
Visit the Websites Below
See how Disney is making the world a better place for Rhinoceroses and their habitats—and the creative ways you can make a difference, too.
“I have learned from the animal world, and what everyone will learn who studies it, is a renewed sense of kinship with the Earth and all its inhabitants.” – Walt Disney