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Skinner, J.D.; Smithers, R.H.N., 1990. The mammals of the southern African subregion, new edition. Pretoria, University of Pretoria, pp. i-xxxii, 1-771

Location: Africa - Southern Africa - South Africa
Subject: Ecology - Habitat
Species: Black Rhino

Original text on this topic:
The black rhinoceros requires a habitat providing adequate shrubs and young trees up to about 4 m high, including well developed woodland or thickets in which to shelter during the heat of the day or in inclement weather. A water supply, not only for drinking but also in which to bathe and mud-wallow, is also important.
While not usually associated with open plains country, the black rhinoceros occurs in a wide range of habitats ranging from forest to savanna woodland and scrub, from sea level to at least 1 500 m in the Subregion and up to 2 700 m in East Africa (Kingdon, 1979).
They are dependent on water and, in the Subregion, are seldom found more than 10 or 15 km from it. Kingdon (1979) stated that in East Africa the maximum dry season distance from water was found to be about 25 km. Where it is not available, they will dig for it in the sand in river beds, excavating with their forelegs.
The early stages of bush encroachment favour this species, especially if this is coupled with heavy grazing (Emslie, pers. comm.). However, later successional trends from closed Acacia nilotica woodland to lowland forest dominated by Euclea schimperi, Berchemia zeyheri and Rhus pentheri have reduced habitat quality in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve, and is likely to have contributed to the decline in the Hluhluwe population which has taken place over the last 20 years. Interestingly many of the most rejected species (e.g. Euclea crispa, Lippia javctnica) in Hluhluwe have grown up on bush-cleared sites in wetter, low-lying sites. By way of contrast favourable food plants have grown up in cleared sites in drier areas of the complex. In addition, Emslie has found grass interference to be very important. Black rhinoceros prefer the smaller sizes of Acacias but when these are hidden they are forced to eat the larger and less preferred plants. They avoid feeding in the tall grass areas of northern Hluhluwe, except along paths. In both Hluhluwe and Umfolozi young tamboti, Spirostachys africana, thickets were key habitats, with S. africana being the dominant item in the black rhinoceros summer diet, accounting for between 20-25% of woody browse eaten. Emslie & Adcock (lggob) also found that size structure changes in the vegetation were important to the rhinoceros even if the species composition remained very similar (e.g. mature S. africana and Acacia grandicornuta woodland was rejected). Riverine bush, tamboti thickets, ridges and lowland forest margin habitat were amongst the most preferred habitats in Hluhluwe. In Umfolozi one of the most preferred habitats was heavily grazed short grass country with a few small Acacias.

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