Indian Rhinoceros Facts: Animals of Asia

By James Karuga on April 25 2017 in Environment

Habitat fragmentation and human hunting have left the Indian rhinoceros, such as this one in India's Kaziranga National Park, classified as a "Vulnerable" species

5. Physical Description

The Indian rhinoceros, unlike other rhino species, has only one horn, hence its scientific name Rhinoceros unicornis, which means "horned nose and one-horned". Its grey-brown hide has folds on the neck, shoulder, and rump. This makes the Indian rhino appear as if it's wearing armored plates. The male’s head and body length is 368 to 380 centimeters, while a female is 310 to 340 centimeters. The shoulder height of a male is between 170 and 186 centimeters, while that for a female is 148 to 173 centimeters. A mature male weighs 2,200 kilograms, while an adult female weighs 1,600 kilograms, according to the ARKive Initiative. The Indian rhinoceros's horns are between 8 and 25 inches long, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

4. Diet

The Indian rhinocerous is herbivorous, and primarily a grazer. It grazes in the early morning or in the evening, and its diet is largely made up by grasses, such as Saccharum, though it also eats leaves, branches, cultivated crops, shrubs, fruits and aquatic plants, according to WWF. The upper lip of the Indian rhinocerous is tipped and prehensile, allowing it to grasp long grasses and leaves. When feeding on shorter grass, however, it doesn’t need to use this unique feature, according to ARKive initiative. The Indian rhinocerous is also fond of natural and artificial "salt licks", from which to obtain crucial minerals.

3. Habitat and Range

Small parts of India and Nepal are where populations of the Indian rhinocerous are to be found today, though in the past they were also seen living in Bhutan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. These countries have tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, shrublands, forests, and swamps, of all which may be inhabited by Indian rhino. On the 2008 International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, the Indian rhinoceros is classified as a "Vulnerable" species. Sport hunting, human-rhino conflicts, and encroachment on its habitat to do agriculture and development had nearly decimated its population, which at one point reached less than 200, in the 20th Century. Other factors for the Indian rhinoceroses' decline have been alien plants invading the grasslands and grazing activities of domestic cattle. The International Rhino Foundation reports there are around 3,345 Indian rhinocerous remaining today, and ongoing conservation efforts hope to bolster their numbers in the future.

2. Behavior

The Indian rhinoceros is a solitary animal, except for when mating or when females are caring for their calves. Still, there are amorphous clusters formed near watering spots, such as swamps, and in their feeding ranges. The Indian rhinoceros loves to swim, and will wallow in mud and water to keep insects from biting its sensitive skin, as well as to lessen the irritation when it is bitten. Indian rhinos form symbiotic relationships with bird species that feed on these insects that bite them, according to Conserve Nature. Male Indian rhinoceroses are territorial, though they are not typically aggressive in defending these territories. Still, they may randomly charge at one another from time to time, and they will mark territories with piles of dung. The Indian rhino vocalizes by snorting, roaring, and honking.

1. Reproduction

A male Indian rhinocerous reaches sexual maturity between 9 and 10 years of age, while a female becomes ready to mate at 4 to 7 years of age. Breeding for Indian rhinos occurs all year round. For a male Indian rhinocerous to mate with a female, it battles other males with its tusk-like incisors, until one has totally dominated the other to claim victory. After mating, the gestation period takes 16 months, followed by the birth of a newborn calf weighing around 65 kilograms. Before a new calf is born, a weaned calf from a preceding pregnancy, usually about 18 months of age, will be chased away by its mother. The average lifespan for an Indian rhino is around 40 years, according to National Geographic.

More in Environment