The greater one-horned rhinoceros or the Indian rhinoceros is native to the Indian subcontinent. It can be found in the Terai-Duar savannah and grasslands and riverine forests of India and Nepal.
Among terrestrial land mammals native to Asia, Indian rhinos are second in size only to the Asian elephant. They can weigh up to 2,200 kg. However, the largest rhinos reportedly weighed up to 4,000 kg.
They are excellent swimmers and can run at speeds of up to 55 km/h for short periods. They also have an excellent sense of hearing and smell, but relatively poor eyesight.
The rhino’s horn is made out of keratin; the same material can be found in our fingernails!
Today, India has a total of 2,939 rhinos, out of which Assam alone has an estimated population of 2,652.
They are listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List, as their population is fragmented and restricted to an area of less than 20,000 sq km.
Lack of site diversity has put species at risk because over 70 per cent of its population can be found at a single site, Kaziranga National Park. Any catastrophic event can be devastating for the rhino’s status in India.
Forest encroachment, silting, grazing of domestic livestock, invasion of alien plants, climate change and a rise in floods have caused large-scale death of Indian rhinos and has limited their ranging areas which are shrinking.
At present, poaching for the use of horns in traditional Chinese medicine is one of the main threats that has led to a drop in several important populations.
The Indian rhinoceros is given the highest protection under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. It is also listed as a CITES Appendix I animal. Poaching, trafficking, and trading of rhino products is strictly prohibited.
Before the 20th century, hunting rhinos was legal. As a result, by 1900, no fewer than 100 rhinos were left. Only in 1910 did rhino hunting in India become prohibited, and in 1957, the country’s first conservation law ensured the protection of rhinos and their habitat.
The Wildlife Trust of India’s conservation facility, the CWRC (Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation) in Assam, is one of the largest rescue and rehab centers in the country that provides relief to Indian rhinos in need.
WTI’s Wildlife Crime Control Division monitors and controls crime involving the illegal trade of rhino horns, throughout the country.
WTI’s Greater Manas Recovery Project aims at bringing back the past glory of the Manas landscape by restoring ecological functionality. It is one of their few projects where five Big Ideas of WTI are implemented together to get efficient results.
All information on this page has been sourced from the Wildlife Trust of India, India’s most trusted wildlife conservation charity organization, dedicated to preserve and protect the natural world and its wild habitats. The WTI team has been fully committed to India’s wildlife for the last 20+ years. You can support their cause and the various projects they undertake (like thisproject) or consider adonation by clicking the banner above!