Indian rhino, Great Indian rhinoceros, Great Indian rhino , Great One-Horned rhinoceros, Great One-Horned rhino, Greater One-Horned rhinoceros, Greater One-Horned rhino , Asian One-Horned rhinoceros, Asian One-Horned rhino, Nepales rhinoceros, Nepales rhi
The Indian rhinoceros is the biggest of the three rhinos of Asia, and, along with the African white rhino, is the biggest of all rhino species. Its single black horn identifies it, along with its gray-brown hide and skin folds, giving it an armor-plated look. This species is a conservation success, as its numbers have increased significantly since 1975. At that time there were just 600 rhinos remaining in the wild. Following decades of successful efforts, numbers increased to 3,500 in Nepal and India by mid-2015. Now it is the most numerous out of the three rhino species in Asia.
Found throughout the subcontinent of northern India in the past, the Indian rhinoceros now lives only in dispersed populations in Nepal and India. It prefers to live on floodplain grasslands, but is sometimes found in adjacent forests and swamps. It has been forced onto more cultivated land due to recent habitat loss.
Habits and lifestyle
The Indian rhino is generally solitary, except when females are with their young. Loosely connected groups of a few individuals occur, especially in foraging areas or wallowing grounds. They feed mostly in the cool of the early morning, during the late afternoon or at night. During the day, they spend a lot of time in water or wallowing in mud in order to keep cool. Males have loosely defined territories which they do not defend well, and often such territories overlap. Occasionally there are aggressive interactions between rhino, with charges and horn clashes. Such fighting between males often causes death when the population numbers are high. Rhinos are known to make about 10 sounds, including snorts, honks and roars. Scent deposition is common, with large communal dung heaps often being formed.
Diet and nutrition
Indian rhinos are herbivores, they eat grass, leaves, fruit, branches, and aquatic plants, as well as cultivated crops. They prefer tall reedy grasses to short species. They drink daily and are fond of mineral licks.
Little information is known about the mating system of Indian rhinos. Only dominant bulls will mate with females, and it is thought that scent is a means of assessing them. This may suggest that Indian rhinos exhibit a polygynous mating system. Breeding takes place throughout the year. After gestation of 480 days, a single young is born, with a weight of 70 kg. Weaning usually takes place after one year, although it can last for 18 months. The offspring stays with its mother until her next calf is born, usually in 3 years’ time. One week before a subsequent birth, the mother will chase the previously born calf away. Females are sexually mature at 9 years old for males, and 4 years old for females.
In the past, hunting was largely responsible for the Indian rhino’s decline. During the 20th century, both Europeans and Asians hunted rhinos for sport. They were also killed in tea plantations as agricultural pests. Poaching remains their biggest threat, driven by increased demand for rhino horn, especially among the growing middle class of Asia. Indian rhinos also suffer from the loss of their habitat. Today, the demand for land by the increasing human population threatens this species. Many protected areas for rhinos have reached the limit of numbers they can support, which causes human-rhino conflict because rhinos leave the protected areas seeking food in the surrounding villages.
According to the WWF Panda resource, the total population size of the Indian rhino today is around 3,500 individuals. According to the World Wildlife (WWF) resource, the total population size of the Indian rhino is over 3,000 individuals. Currently this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List. However, its numbers today are increasing.
Fun facts for kids
- Indian rhinos love swimming and wading more than most of the other rhino species.
- These animals are quite shy and generally will run away from danger in preference to attacking, although females will defend their calves.
- Rhinos often bathe and wallow during the day’s heat. This is important for both keeping cool and avoiding flies.
- Male and female Indian rhinos both have a single horn, which starts to show at around 6 years and grows to about 25 cm.
- An adult rhino’s skin may be as thick as 5 cm (2 inches), with a typical range across the species being 1.5-5 cm thick.
- The word “rhinoceros” means “horn nose” and is from the Ancient Greek “ῥῑνόκερως”.
- There used to be “woolly” rhinos, the oldest recorded fossil being in Tibet, dated around 3.6 million years ago. These animals closely resembled white rhinos in shape and size, but they were hairy and well suited to cold climates. These ancient rhinos often appeared in cave drawings. It is thought they became extinct about 10,000 years ago, perhaps as a result of being hunted by humans, or, more likely, due to the drastic climate changes of that time: the "Big Freeze" - The Younger Dryas stadial, which began about 10,850 BC and lasted about a thousand years.