White rhino mothers are the sole caregivers of the young for 2-3 years, while males have no parental investment on calves beyond the mating process.
Female white rhinos reach sexual maturity at the age of 3-5 years, whereas males reach sexual maturity at the age of 5-7 years. Female white rhinoceroses can reproduce from age 5-46 years. The breeding interval in white rhinos is long at 2.5-3 years. This long breeding interval is tied to a long gestational period of 530-550 days.
White rhinos give birth to one offspring at a time, which weighs, on average, 48.5 kilograms and doubles its size by 6 months. At birth, the average weight of juveniles is 40 to 60 kilograms, and the head and body length is 0.50 to 0.65 meters. The horns of juveniles can only be seen six weeks after birth, when black membranes covering the horns fall off. Body hairs are visible three months after birth. Mothers are the sole caregivers of the young and males have no parental investment on calves beyond the mating process.
White rhinoceros calves start suckling mother’s milk only hours after birth, and they usually suckle for 2 to 3 minutes at a time. White rhinoceroses start grazing at 2 months, but they are dependent on their mothers for nutrition until 6 months after birth. Beyond 6 months, the mothers still nurse their calves and protect them from predators and external threats, such as wildfire. Furthermore, calves usually move in front of their mother in the early stage of their life, and they respond immediately when their mothers change direction. Calves usually follow their mothers continuously for 2 months. White rhinoceros start weaning at one year and stay with their mothers for 2 to 3 years. At that time, the mothers drive their calves out of their territories and become sexually receptive again.
• Image | © Martin Heigan, Some Rights Reserved (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
• Sources | (Dulal, 2017; Estes, 1991; Groves, 1972; Nowak, 1999; Pienaar, 1994; Rachlow, Berkeley, & Berger, 1998)