A chronological survey of bibliographical and iconographical sources on rhinoceroses in southern Africa from 1795 to 1875: reconstructing views on classification and changes in distribution

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Rhinoceroses were widespread in southern Africa at the end of the eighteenth century, but by 1875 their range was much reduced. The changes in distribution that occurred during this period can be reconstructed from a close examination of the written evidence left by travellers, from the drawings and paintings produced by artists in the field, and from the specimens that were destined for museum and other collections in Europe. As the southern African interior was explored and settled, several new species of rhinoceros were described, including Rhinoceros simus by Burchell in 1817, Rhinoceros keitloa by Andrew Smith in 1836, Rhinoceros niger by Schinz in 1845 based on travels by Alexander, and Rhinoceros oswelli by Elliot in 1847. From the late 1840s, it was usual to recognise four species of rhinoceros in southern Africa, called locally Borele, Keitloa, Muhoohoo and Kiaboaba. In 1875, Drummond recognised five types, and some hunters even exceeded this number. Selous, however, convincingly advocated that only two species should be recognised, the black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis and the white Ceratotherium simum. The purpose of this monograph is to document evidence of rhinoceroses in southern Africa and it includes locality records, illustrations and lists of specimens. All locality records of rhinoceroses are given with coordinates, while maps show the nineteenth-century ranges of both black and white rhinoceroses in the present countries of South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Many of the illustrations - some reproduced for the first time - were made in the field. Images by Samuel Daniell in 1801, William Burchell in 1812, William Cornwallis Harris in 1842 and Thomas Baines between 1862 and 1868 show the characteristics of the various species. The specimens (hides, skeletons, skulls, horns) collected during the nineteenth century and preserved in European collections are listed and their status discussed.

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Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa

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Journal Article

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