The Indian Rhinoceros Population: Important Facts And Figures

By Amber Pariona on August 1 2017 in Environment

An Indian rhinoceros with its mother.

The Indian rhinoceros is native to the Indian subcontinent where it prefers grassland and forest habitats near rivers and waterways. This rhinoceros can be distinguished from other rhino species by its single, thick, black-colored horn, which protrudes from the top of its nose. The average size of this horn is approximately 9.8 inches in length, although longer measurements have been recorded. The Indian rhinoceros is covered in a greyish-brown, leather-like skin, which is characterized by a number of folds and bumps. This species grows to between 10.2 and 12.5 feet in height and may weigh anywhere from 3,530 to 4,850 pounds, depending on sex. Its diet consists of grasses, shrubs, aquatic plants, fruits, and tree leaves.

Conservation Status And Threats

The Indian rhinoceros could once be found across large stretches of land, from as far north as Indochina, Myanmar, and southern China to as far south as India. This area includes Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. Today, however, the range of this species is believed to cover an area of only 7,700 square miles.

This widespread habitat loss is currently one of the biggest threats faced by the Indian rhinoceros. Human development and agricultural endeavors infringe upon rhinoceros territory, destroying its habitat. Additionally, livestock is left to graze in the same range, overeating the plants this species rely on for survival. Previously, the Indian rhinoceros was threatened by unsustainable hunting practices that occurred between the late 19th century and the early 20th century. When hunting this animal was prohibited by the government, illegal poaching became its biggest threat. The black horn is valued on the black market for its perceived curative properties in traditional medicine practices. Because of these threats and its drastically declining population size, the Indian rhinoceros is categorized by the IUCN as vulnerable on the Red List of conservation statuses.

Indian Rhinoceros In The Wild

The wild Indian rhinoceros population is currently recorded at around only 3,555 individuals. These wild rhinos live in extremely fragmented habitats, which can be found in the northern regions of Bengal, the Brahmaputra Valley, and the southern areas of Nepal. An estimated 70% of the population is living in the Kaziranga National Park, which further threatens this species due to the risks associated with a decreased gene pool. Additionally, when the majority of a population is located in one place, disease, natural disasters, poaching, and habitat loss have a greater probability of wiping out the entire species.

Indian Rhinoceros In Captivity

Approximately 174 Indian rhinos are currently living in captivity in zoological parks around the world. This species has been kept in captivity since at least the mid-19th century. In fact, the first birth of an Indian rhino in captivity was recorded in 1826 in Kathmandu, Nepal. This mammal is particularly difficult to breed in captivity. However, another calf was not born until around a century later. In 1956, the Zoo Basel in Switzerland celebrated the first rhino birth in captivity in Europe. This zoo has developed a successful captive breeding program and by 2012 has had 33 successful births. As of the 21st century, captive breeding programs have been attempting artificial insemination techniques. The Buffalo Zoo in the US state of New York reported the first successful birth from artificial insemination in 2014.

More in Environment