Known as: Indian Rhino, Indian One-horned Rhino, Asian one-horned rhinoceros, greater one-horned rhinoceros.
Estimated numbers left in the wild: Approximately 2,600.
The Indian rhino is a large, sturdy beast possessing an armour-like skin. These rhinos can weigh up to 2,700 kilograms, and are typically 3 to 3.8 meters in length; their shoulder height is between 160 and 190 centimetres. The Indian rhinoceros has only one horn which is 20 to 60 centimetres long and is actually composed of compressed hair. The skin of the rhino hangs in folds and plates that offer excellent protection against predators, although it also is more flexible than might be thought – elastic skin between the plates allows freedom of movement. Although no one could accuse the Indian rhino of being beautiful, it has majesty in its very homeliness.
The bulky form of the Indian rhino is deceptive, too, for this animal can not only run at nearly 50 km an hour, but is also able to turn quickly at speed and also jump. Like their African cousins, Indian rhinos are extremely near-sighted and rely upon their superior senses of smell and hearing to detect intruders.
The Indian rhino is primarily a crepuscular grazing animal, enjoying grasses and leaves. These rhinos enjoy the water and feed also on aquatic plants. Indian rhinos prefer grasslands that are adjacent to rivers or other bodies of water, but will also use forestland or lands bordering agriculture if needed. The rhinos prefer to travel along pathways through the grasslands, and where the grass is tall enough will make tunnels.
These rhinos are predominantly solitary animals, with interaction occurring only during breeding season or between mother and young. The rhinos will tolerate one another at water holes, however, and passage through overlapping territories is not disputed between males except when the females are receptive.
Location: The range of the Indian rhino is a mere remnant of its former extent. Previously common through the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, from Pakistan to China, the Indian rhino is now found only in small areas of India and Nepal. Although an attempt was made to reintroduce the Indian rhino to Pakistan, the effort failed and has not been repeated.
Threats: At the beginning of the 20th Century, the Indian rhino was nearly extinct, with only 200 of the beasts left. They had been hunted nearly to the last rhino for their horns, which are coveted in Chinese and Vietnamese medicine for their supposed curative powers. Habitat loss through expanding agriculture also restricted the range of the rhinos. Aggressive conservation measures helped the Indian rhino to restore its numbers to some degree, but an upsurge in the demand for traditional medicines, especially in Vietnam, has caused poachers to begin hunting the rhinos again. In addition to use in medicines, the horn is also used to make buttons, knife handles, and other decorative items.
Besides habitat destruction, the introduction of alien plant forms into traditional rhino feeding grounds seems to have restricted the amount of food available for the rhinos, and this appears to have a direct influence upon how often the cows produce a calf.
Conservation efforts: The governments of both India and Nepal are involved in conserving existing populations of Indian rhinos. Various NGOs are also taking part in this effort. There is an attempt to extend protected areas, along with a program to remove weeds and plants the rhinos are unable to eat to expand their normal food supply. Rangers in the parks are aggressive in fighting poachers.
Indian Rhino Videos
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation sells artwork to fund breeding programmes, anti-poaching projects, field work and education programmes to protect different species around the world including the Indian Rhino.
Save the Rhino works with local partners in Asia and Africa to protect the five different rhino species. They support anti-poaching activities, monitoring, environmental education, community conservation, translocations and captive breeding.