NAIROBI PARK DIARY

The big mouth

It all started when Dutch settlers remarked on the 'wyd' mouths of the rhino

In Summary

• The names Black and White rhino have nothing to do with their colours

White rhino mouth
White rhino mouth
Image: GARETH JONES

Every time I drive into the park, there is an excitement in knowing that every day is different. Recently, after driving near No4 junction, I saw a family group of white rhino walking slowly towards the road. I stopped and watched as they continued to eat tender green grass. As they ambled closer and closer to our vehicle, it was really great to be so close to these rhino. At one stage, I could even smell and hear them breathing.

It should be noted that White Rhino were introduced into the park in October 2009, when 10 rhino were translocated from the Nakuru National Park. The white rhino from Nakuru National Park came from Solio Ranch near Nyeri, and the original stock of white rhino at Solio Ranch came from South Africa.

White Rhino are different from Black Rhino in many ways. Firstly, they are much heavier and relatively placid compared to the aggressive black rhino, and they have square mouths designed to graze grasses, while the black rhino has a cleft hooked lip designed to eat twigs and leaves.

The names Black and White rhino have nothing to do with their colours. They are both dark grey. It all started when Dutch settlers remarked on the “wyd” or wide mouths. Someone translated that as white, so they were named white rhino. Then another different species was found, so they just called it the opposite of white, namely black.

I was mesmerised by one of the rhino as it moved very close to me. I could see its big mouth selectively eating tufts of grass. Both Black and White rhino are found in the park. However, the white rhino is quickly identified with its bulkier size and its big, wide, square mouth.