ec•o•sys•tem [ek-oh-sis-tuhm, ee-koh-]
a system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment
Rhinos, like all animals, exist within an ecosystem. An ecosystem is a biological environment made up of all the animals and plants living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving, physical parts of the environment (like air, soil, water, and sunlight). Organisms within an ecosystem are linked and impact on each other. Conservationist must take into account the whole ecosystem, including local human populations, when trying to conserve a species.
The rhino is what’s called an umbrella species. Like an umbrella protects you from the rain, conservation of an umbrella species can indirectly protect many other species. Because there are millions of species of conservation concern and the resources available for conservation are limited, it can be useful to use umbrella species to make conservation decisions. In summary, when you save a rhino, you save an ecosystem!
Use the links below to learn more about the animals found in a rhino's ecosystem.
Create your very own ecosystem
Click to download your very own African savannah ecosystem. Print out the savannah and colour it in. Then, print out, colour in and cut out the animals that live on the savannah. If you read the story told by Zola, the young rhino, in the instruction sheet, you can get an idea of which colours you should use for each of the animals and whereabouts in the savannah each animal should be. BE CAREFUL!!! There's an animal in the mix that doesn't belong in the African savannah. Can you spot which one it is?
The small five
On safari in Africa, people are often in search of seeing the ‘Big Five’ which traditionally includes elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino. But good things can come in small packages too and we wanted to introduce you to a hip new group called the ‘Small Five’. Small species like these are just as important, if not more so, for the functioning of an ecosystem. Click here to open our Small Five factsheet
Cover your tracks
Rangers use tracks to find and monitor animals that they can’t see. Unlike many hoofed mammals, the rhinoceros has an odd number of toes – three on each hoof. The middle toe is the largest toe as can been seen in the track left by a rhinoceros.Would you be a good ranger? Can you match the track to some of the animals found in a rhino's ecosystem? Click here to open our puzzle and test your skills