The Indian rhino is another example of economic value of the creature leading to overhunting and near extermination. The current Indian rhino population is currently estimated to be about three thousand.
The only way for them to be reintroduced to their natural habitat is to remove the economic benefits of hunting the creature, and Nepal’s conservation preserves have done an amazing job of this. Not only do they seriously discourage hunting of the Indian rhino with prison sentencing and fiscal penalties, one such preserve in Nepal staffs two armed guards for every rhino under their care. They are presently listed as vulnerable, on the conservation status’ list.
The Indian rhino is the second largest rhinoceros, next only to the white rhino. They are more commonly known as greater one-horned rhinoceroses, as they have only one horn. The single horn is made of keratin, the same material found in the hair and nails of humans. The horn can grow as large as sixty centimeters long. Unlike the black and white rhinos, the Indian rhino can use its horn for combat in any fashion. If broken naturally, the Indian rhino can grow back its horn, though it is a very slow process.
While their natural skin color is an ashy grey, the Indian rhino usually take on the color of nearby soil and dust. Like most other rhinos, they are hairless aside for tufts behind the ears, on the end of their tails, and eyelashes. Indian rhinos have very thick, almost armor-like, plates along its shoulder and hips. This armor serves to protect them from rough foliage and the occasional predator attack. It also houses a subcutaneous layer of fat, to insulate their bodies from both heat and cold.
Males are generally larger than females, and have large folds of skin in their necks. These large folds of skin are full of blood, which helps the animal keep cool during the day. These rhinos are generally covered in warts.
Once, the greater one-horned rhino roamed all over the India lowlands, but poaching and environmental changes have seriously limited this rhino’s natural habitat. Today, the largest populations of this creature can be found near Nepal and northern parts of India. They are considered regionally extinct in Pakistan and the surrounding areas. Most Indian rhinos are now found in preservation areas adjacent to highly populated areas. While this has decreased the rate of Indian rhinos being poached, nearby civilization has caused them to become agitated and much more fearful of humans. This makes them difficult animals to observe and attempt to protect, however, the Indian rhino is one of the best examples of creature whose population has increased exponentially under the protection of conservation societies.
Depending on the availability of food and wallows, male Indian rhinos are fiercely territorial. They have been known to spar with encroaching males, starting by snorting. If neither of the animals back down, as the lesser male usually does, they will charge at one another and bash horns. This can go on for several hours, until one of the males is exhausted and leaves, or one of them is dead. Male’s territories can be as large as fifty square kilometers, and are known to overlap. However, they are much more social animals near watering holes, salt licks, and large wallows. They have been observed in numbers as large as thirteen in these public locations.
Females are free to move in and out of male’s territories when they are not breeding. Indian rhinos have been recorded using up to ten different vocalizations, including snorts, grunts, whistles, and snuffles. They also communicate with scraping, urine, dung droppings, and broken foliage. Indian rhinos are known to leave communal dung heaps, used to show where other rhinos have traveled. These communal latrines have been recorded as high as several meters.
Indian rhinos are often aggressive when dealing with humans, making them a difficult species to study. A charging rhino can seriously harm a person, so it is not advised to approach them in any capacity. Indian rhinos are good swimmers, and can be observed doing this in lieu of wallowing on exceptionally hot days. Wallowing is a necessary function to keep the animal cool during midday, as an uncooled rhino can easily die of heat exhaustion.
The only creature that naturally preys on the Indian rhino, other than humans, is the Bengal tiger. Often these predatory advances fail, due to the rhino’s thick skin and capable offensive tools.
Indian rhinos are browse eaters, meaning that they forage through thousands of different types of plant matter daily. They are known to eat everything from twigs, branches, and leaves, to fruits, roots, and grass. They are also known to ingest various forms of aquatic plant life. This species of rhino has a row of very sharp incisor teeth, which it uses to break apart thinker plant life, as well as an offensive attack. Their prehensile lip allow the Indian rhino grab this plant life and pull it into their mouths quickly. This rhino needs the lick salt and mineral deposits for its digestive systems.
Females reach sexual maturity at about four years of age, at which time the generally breed right away. Males reach sexual maturity at about nine years of age. Indian rhinos do not have set breeding cycles; however a female will only mate once every three or four years. During ovulation, the male will bar females from leaving its territory, until the two become accustomed. After this period of acclimation, the two will mate. Gestation occurs in about fifteen months.
A calf is weaned for about a year, but will stay with its mother for up to three years. After this time, the mother will drive the calf away to fend for itself, and breed again as soon as is possible, which usually takes about four years.