Rhinos: Critical Land Shapers and Maintainers of Vegetation Health

Rhinos: Critical Land Shapers and Maintainers of Vegetation Health

By Rina Herzl

Rhinos are keystone species in their ecosystems. They are mega-herbivores that play a significant role in an entire habitat's topographical design, impacting countless other plants and animals. Whether in the Javan rainforest or the Namibian savanna, rhinos are critical to grazing large amounts of vegetation and the reshaping of land over time.

Black rhino eating vegetation

Susan McConnell

Rhinos help other wildlife by expanding access to the water supply. Their ability to dig for water with their mighty horns leads to the creation of new waterholes. And when rhinos wallow in mud puddles with their tremendous weight, they help maintain existing reservoirs.

When they roll their bodies about in mud, rhinos also extract enriched sections of fertile soil. They then carry it on their skin and distribute essential nutrients to other areas, thereby stimulating new plant growth.

Sumatran rhino cooling off in a mud wallow

Suzi Eszterhas

Their contribution to the food chain goes further as seed spreaders. In one day, rhinos can consume over 120 pounds of vegetation; they then disperse seeds at great distances in their over 50 pounds of dung. The dung itself is also a soil fertilizer, serving to enrich and germinate new vegetation.

As a species that has been around for millions of years, rhinos are critical to shaping habitats, supporting other wildlife, and maintaining the balance of ecosystems.