Creating folds that look like armor, the skin of the Indian rhinoceros is a brownish-gray hue with raised wart-like bumps on the neck, shoulders, and legs. Its single horn distinguishes the Indian rhinoceros from its African counterparts, who all have two horns. Consequently, the Indian rhinoceros is also referred to as the Great One-Horned Rhinoceros.
Weighing up to 2200 kg (4800 lb.), Indian rhinos graze in flood plain areas in Northern India and Nepal. Interestingly, they have lips that are specially adapted to grasp the grass they eat (also known as prehensile lips). They occasionally eat leaves, fruit, and crops as well.
To combat the heat, Indian rhinos eat during the cooler parts of the day and immerse themselves in nearby rivers and mud holes during the hottest parts of the day. They are considered to be good swimmers and sometimes eat the aquatic plants they encounter.
Rhinoceroses have poor eye sight. However, they make up for it with their exceptional hearing and sense of smell. In fact, they use their enhanced sense of smell to seek out other rhinos during the mating season.
At around 4-6 years old, female Indian rhinoceroses are ready to mate. The males are generally ready around age 9, but only the largest and most dominant male rhinos will mate. After a 15- to 16-month gestation period, the female rhino will give birth. She will give birth again in 1-3 years. Male rhinoceroses do not help in rearing the young.
Generally solitary creatures, except for mothers and offspring who stay together, Indian rhinos live in loosely-defined territories. These territories are marked with urine, feces, and glandular secretions. That said, Indian rhinos may meet up at watering holes without fighting.
Indian rhinoceroses are currently listed as vulnerable on IUCN’s Red List, but fortunately, their numbers have risen due to conservation efforts. India and Nepal have strengthened their opposition to poaching and have created parks and reserves to protect the rhinos. Traditionally, rhinoceroses have been killed for their horns, which are believed to have medicinal value in many Asian cultures.
What You Can Do to Help
To help in the conservation of the Indian rhinoceros, you can donate to the International Rhino Foundation.
Indian Rhinoceros Distribution
- International Rhino Foundation
- San Diego Zoo’s Rhinoceros Page
- National Geographic’s Indian Rhinoceros Page