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The black rhino may seem ponderous as it browses among the scrub. If alarmed, though, it turns its ton and a half bulk into a nimble, armor clad deadly weapon. The black rhino is an animal heavyweight, equipped with a huge head, massive body and thick, sturdy limbs, yet it is surprisingly nimble.

Heavy and well protected, the black rhino can adjust to many different habitats in Africa. It needs to be close to water, however, because it does not have any sweat glands, and needs to bathe to cool off. It also needs muddy wallows to coat the skin for protection from biting insects. In the wet season, heavy rains allow the rhino to range more widely. The black rhino is a browser; a selective feeder that eats twigs and leaves. The rhino’s sensitive upper lip is prehensile. It can extend this lip to tear off a bunch of juicy leaves or twigs and pass them to its mouth, where they are crushed by broad, ridged teeth. The rhino also uses its horn to hook branches down to its mouth.

Mating can be a dangerous process for male black rhinos, which occasionally fight over females. Courtship rituals can also be prolonged and vicious. After mating, the male may stay with the female for up to four months, but more often he leaves after a few days and shows no interest in his future offspring.

Although the male black rhino is solitary, feeding in a territory that offers access to water, he will share his water supply with neighboring males. Resident males mark territorial borders with urine and dung heaps. They will drive out unfamiliar, non-territorial males who stray too close; female visitors are less likely to be driven off. An adult female needs access to a larger feeding range than a male because she is usually accompanied by a calf and sometimes also an older female offspring.

Illegal hunting and poaching for the black rhino’s horn have devastated the population in the last three decades. In areas where poaching is common and the rhino’s plight is becoming increasingly desperate, game wardens tranquilize the animals before moving them to sanctuaries. Dehorning rhinos in certain regions has helped to protect them from poachers.