African fires wipe out endangered rhino’s favorite foods

The rhinos’ size limits what they eat: Their height means they can only pluck the leaves and fruits that grow below two meters on bushes and trees – which are almost always destroyed by the fires. And their range is relatively small; they can’t travel distances like their fellow browsers, giraffes and elephants. Of the many hundreds of plant species that grow in Serengeti, black rhinos selectively prefer only about 10. One of their favorites, according to Anderson’s study, is Achyranthes aspera, or chaff-flower.

After analyzing where Serengeti’s rhinos visited and what they ate, Anderson determined that black rhinos preferred to graze in spots that haven’t burned in at least 10 years. The park conducts controlled burns at least once a year.

Anderson has shared his research with…

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