One Horned Rhinoceros – Endangered Species in India That You Should Protect Before They Vanish!

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One Horned Rhinoceros

The world is filled with endangered animal species, many of which are to be found in India. While some of these animals are highly endangered, others are near to vulnerable and others are also extinct. Some animals are left in too small numbers that if little is done for their survival, the next generation may not ever be able to see them.

The one-horned rhino, located in Assam, is a massive animal. Excessive hunting has made this population less widespread. Such rhinos are being slaughtered to show off their horns and are being marketed at a very high profit.

Can be spotted at: 

Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Kaziranga National Park, and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.

Why are One-horned rhinoceros Under threat

Endangered Species in India

The greatest danger confronting Greater one-horned rhinos is human violence and interference. For centuries, rhinos have been hunted for sport and their horn. The Greater One-horned Rhino was nearly hunted to extinction in the early 19th century. The remaining animals were only found in protected reserves, where, under the monitoring of certain organizations, populations are currently being brought back from the edge of extinction.

With strict protection from Indian and Nepalese wildlife authorities, larger one-horn rhino numbers have recovered from less than 200 to around 3,580 today. However, poaching has remained high, and the success is precarious without continued and increased support for conservation efforts in India and Nepal.

Habitat degradation and depletion pose more challenges to the stock of rhinoceros. Seeing the larger one-horned rhinos reside in places of very rich fields, people are utilizing the same property for cultivation. Conflicts between humans and animals are unavoidable and thus detrimental to the broader population of the one-horned rhino.

The Mughal emperors of South Asia used Greater one-horned rhinos in fights against elephants as entertainment. The rhinos would often win. Thankfully, this sport is no longer practiced or permitted.

Physical characteristics

  • Size: the Greater one-horned rhino is the second biggest of the rhino species, beaten only by the white rhino.
  • Weight: usually between 4-6,000 pounds (1,800-2,700 kg)
  • Height of the shoulder: the greater one-horned rhino is between 1.75-2 m wide and 3-3.8 m high.
  • Skin color: they have an ashy grey, hairless skin that develops thick folds, resembling armor plating. Several prominent folds of skin protect the neck. The skin has a maximum thickness of 4 cm. The subcutaneous fat is 2-5 cm thick and well supplied with blood; this helps thermo-regulation, meaning that the animal can regulate its body temperature in varying weather conditions. The skin is very soft and thin between the folds, across the chest, the inner legs, and the facial region.
  • The horn: Bigger single-horned rhinos have one head, usually 20-61 cm thick, weighing up to 3 kg. It has the same horn system as horses hooves and if torn off it re-grows. It is not used for fighting but to search for food and to forage for roots
  • Hair: located at the rear end, behind the ears, and under the eyelashes.

Location and habitat

  • Location: the Greater one-horned rhino can be found in India and Nepal, particularly in the foothills of the Himalayas. In the past, bigger one-horned rhinos roamed peacefully across the valley of the Brahmaputra, Ganges, and Indus River in the floodplains and woods.
  • Habitat: Greater one-horned rhinos are semi-aquatic and often take up residence in swamps, forests, and riversides, and anywhere that is near nutritious mineral licks.

Social behavior and territory

  • Sociability: Larger one-horned rhinos are typically solitary, with the exception of small-calf females. Males have loosely defined territories where they live alone, which they defend aggressively, and this may overlap with other territories. The territories change according to food availability about the current season. The females can move as they wish in and out of these territories. If food is abundant within an area, it is not unusual to see several animals all grazing close together.
  • Male territory: Male Great one-horned rhinos will battle fiercely over chosen habitual habitats. The death of one male in one of these fights is not uncommon; it’s usually a few days later, due to wounds sustained during the fight.
  • Female territory: these tend to overlap with other territories, and also depend on the resources available in a particular area.
  • Scent-marking: The rhino dung heaps, or ‘middens,’ act as points of contact and identify territorial boundaries. Several animals often defecate at the same spot. Such a dung heap can become up to five meters wide and one meter high. Greater one-horned rhinos scratch their hind feet in the dung after they have defecated. By continuing to walk, they ‘transport’ their smell around the paths, thus establishing a scent-marked trail that is claimed by the rhino in question.

Breeding and birth

  • Sexual maturity: females may begin breeding at 4 years old, and males are usually sexually mature at 9 years old. There is no set breeding season, and a female will leave a gap of around 3-4 years between calves
  • Gestation period: this is between 15-16 months. Even when she’s about to give birth, the rhino needs a peaceful, spacious place to calve.
  • Birth: at birth, a Greater one-horned rhino calf can weigh as much as 58-70kg. The calf will remain with its mother for the first year and a half of its life, before being rejected
  • Maternal calves: a calf drinks on average 20-30 liters of milk per day and grows by 1-2 kg daily. They start nibbling and feeding on roughage at the age of 3-5 months, but may continue to suck up to the age of 20 months. Young calves are also vulnerable to the predation of tigers in the wild

Other interesting facts

  • Food: they feed on a wide variety of plants (up to 183 different species!) with a strong seasonal variation: grass, fruits, leaves, and branches of trees and shrubs, submerged and floating aquatic plants and crops. On average, larger one-horned rhinos consume 1 percent of their body weight every day and are reported to dive for their calories.
  • Wallowing: mud wallows can be places where several individuals meet, as a kind of social gathering. Afterward, they will separate again. Covering their skin in mud aids thermo-regulation by preventing overheating, and also suffocates any ticks or parasites that are embedded on the surface of the skin
  • Teeth: although their horn may not be as long as other well-known species of rhino, Greater one-horned rhinos have very long lower incisor teeth that can be used in fighting to inflict deep wounds. A males’ teeth can grow up to 8 cm long
  • Sounds: 12 different frequently-used communication sounds are known in Greater one-horned rhinos, including snorts, honks, and roars
  • Forest paths: Greater one-horned rhinos prefer to follow the same routes at the bottom of their feet, which are distinguished by a scent gland. Traces of their urine and dung, which can also be distributed on their feet, act as scent-markers as well
  • Longevity: Greater one-horned rhinos live on average up to 30-45 years in the wild, while the longevity record for those in captivity is 40 years
  • Swimming: they are very good swimmers and can dive and feed underwater, seemingly enjoying the cool, wet elements of the surrounding lakes and riverine habitats
  • Senses: they have a good sense of smell and hear very well, but are rather short-sighted.
    Running speed: Greater one-horned rhinos can run fast (up to 40 km/h) and are very agile, despite their bulky shape and size
  • Distinctive characteristics: aside from their unique ‘armor-plating’ appearance, they have a prehensile upper lip, much like that of the black rhino, which assists in foraging
  • Conservation status: vulnerable, meaning that the species is likely to become endangered unless the circumstances that are threatening its survival and reproduction improve

Rhinoceros are a critically endangered species with less than 30,000 rhinos living in the wild today. At the start of the 20th century, there were over 500,000. This dramatic decline in rhino numbers was caused by human activity. Initially, numbers dropped due to hunting but the main threats to rhinos today are poaching and loss of habitat.

Reasons behind Rhinoceros being Endangered

Poaching And Illegal Trafficking of Rhino Horn

Poaching and illegal trade of rhino horns have increased sharply since 2007 and remain one of the major reasons rhinos are still endangered today. Poaching is big business, and well organized criminal gangs are now well-equipped to track and kill a rhino. One rhino horn can fetch more than an incredible £200,000. Within countries, political and economic uncertainty will raise the danger of poaching too.

Since 1977, Rhino horn trading has been prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but the demand for rhino horns in the black market is strong. Rhino horns are used in traditional Asian medicine, particularly in Vietnam and China, although there is no medical evidence to indicate that keratin present in the horn is useful as a remedy. More recently, and particularly among Vietnam’s middle and upper classes, buying rhino horn signifies the prosperity and achievement of someone else. This is seen as a token of prestige and is claimed to be an aphrodisiac. 

Loss of Habitat

The other big challenge to rhino species is the destruction of the land. As more and more land is cleared for agriculture there is less available space for a rhino to thrive in. Rhino needs a large area in which to feed and roam. The prospects of successful reproduction and regeneration could drop more if rhino populations wind up broken, with no secure ‘corridors’ to pass across.

Which Species of Rhino is the most Endangered

The planet has five rhinoceros species: three varieties live in Europe, and two in Africa. The Great One-Horned Rhino, Sumatran Rhino, and Javan Rhino are present in Asia and Africa has Black Rhino and White Rhino. The One-Horned Great Rhino is located in India and Nepal. Both the Sumatran Rhino and Javan Rhino have also been identified throughout India throughout records.

In India, Great One-Horned Rhinos are found in Kaziranga, Manas, Pobitora, and Orang national parks in Assam and Jaldapara and Gorumara national parks in West Bengal. From a tiny population of 75 in 1905 to around 3000 now, the rhino conservation effort in India has been a remarkable success. In 1986, the government of India gave rhinos the status of endangered species.

There are three types of rhino in Asia, the Javan and Sumatran rhino, two of which are “critically endangered.” Now about 72 Javan rhino and less than 100 Sumatran rhino are remaining in the country. The Javan rhino is one of the world’s rarest large mammals, which was proclaimed extinct in 2011 in Vietnam. The Greater One-Horned rhino has risen from just 200 in 1900 to 3,550 in numbers. The third Asian species is called “vulnerable.” Due to active protection initiatives, numbers have risen but Asian rhino populations are often poached in India and Nepal for their hide.

How are we protecting the Endangered Rhino Species

There are many ways to save rhinos. Citizens should visit national parks where rhinos breed and help preserve them there. Some rhino horns are often used for some reason whatsoever. Let us all work together to save the modern-day unicorn which is an evolutionary miracle.

Increasing the number of rhinos

The government of Assam has been collaborating with NGOs for a Vision 2020 for the rhinos of Assam to increase the number of rhinos to 3000 in the state. World Animal Protection aims to avoid rhinos being poached by increasing consciousness of the reality of rhino horn trafficking and rhino horn use in traditional Chinese medicine. All governmental and non-governmental organizations are engaged to protect the rhinos environment in Assam, West Bengal, and Nepal.

A resue center in Kaziranga

There is a rescue center for rhinos in Kaziranga where orphaned rhinos and rhinos affected by floods are given a safe place to stay till the time they are released to their natural habitat. NGOs and the Assam Forest Department have been translocating rhinos from Kaziranga and Pobitora to Manas National Park as part of the vision 2020 program.

As of 2008, at least 209 charges have been reported about rhino poaching, according to the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.

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