What Rhino Extinction Means for Local Ecosystems

The importance of rhinoceros to their local ecosystem.

Cecils Pride

Rhinos in their ecosystem[2]

In terms of their role in the ecosystem, what do rhinoceros share in common with apex predators like lions and wolves?

Answer: Rhinoceros, like elephants, are one of our world’s few “megaherbivores” (defined as plant-eaters that weigh more than 2,000 pounds) and thus, as mature adults, are rarely subject to predation. Hence, rhinos’ impact on their ecosystem is disproportionately large. Like lions, wolves, and elephants, this earns rhinos the title of “keystone species.” Consequentially, their disappearance would likewise be catastrophic for their local ecosystems.

In the first and only study examining white rhinos’ role in shaping their ecosystem, researchers Joris P. G. M. Cromsigt and Mariska te Beest found that numerous species depend on the diversity of plant-life in the grasslands – a diversity which rhinos are instrumental in maintaining. Unlike elephants who are mainly browsers, eating from and pushing over trees, rhinos are grazers. Jason G. Goldman at University of Washington’s Conservation magazine writes, “Think…

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