What’s tougher than being a rhino nowadays? How about being a deaf rhino?
Rhinos are notorious for having poor eyesight, therefore their acute sense of smell and hearing are critical to their daily survival.
As an obvious sign of how much they rely on their hearing; rhino ears are always moving, pivoting back and forth like miniature satellite dishes, taking in every sound, assessing their environment.
But for at least a century, earless black rhino have been observed in at least 7 populations. In these rhino, both visually deformed and completely earless rhinos were noted.
It is actually not all that uncommon in certain populations. For example: In Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, South Africa there are 3.7–4.0% of rhinos with this issue, and in Mkhuze Game Reserve, South Africa: 7.1%.
The cause is unknown. There has been speculation from genetic abnormality to the notion of predator attacks, such as hyena, but no definitive conclusion has been found.
In 2012, Roan Plotz , spent three years researching and tracking black rhino. His observations were that this physical anomaly renders the rhino totally deaf. See more on Plotz’s findings HERE.
While some earless rhinos have been observed to live long, normal lives; with no obvious issues breeding, eating, etc., others have met with untimely death. In one case from an elephant trampling, and in another from a hyena attack. It can only be assumed their deafness played a part.