Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros in India
The great Himalayas are one of the great creations of Planet Earth. With the existence of the Himalayas lies the existence of the several lives in it. From the highest altitude to the lowest of the Himalayas provides us with a unique diversity of wildlife. Over millions of years the sediments and the alluvial soil from the top of the Himalayas are getting eroded and accumulating at the foothills of the Himalayas providing one of the most fertile lands on the Planet. The area is called as the Terai region in northern India spreads from the Yamuna river eastwards across Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal and the Southern Grasslands of Nepal. The corresponding lowlands with the dense vegetation and tall grasslands with the same habitat of West Bengal, Bhutan, Assam in the Brahmaputra river basin are called Dooars. The dense vegetation of the land holds the population of some of the biggest mammals in the world. Some of them are, Asiatic Elephant (Largest land mammal in the world), One-horned Rhinoceros, Asiatic water Buffalo and numerous ungulates with more than 800 species of birds.
The region is also the place where you can find the only living population of One-horned Rhinoceros in the world and the Soft Ground Barasingha. Almost 80 % of the total population of the One-horned Rhinoceros is in India.
Now there are around 3700 individual Greater One-horned Rhinoceros left in the world and almost 3000 of them are in India.
EXPLORE – ELEPHANT AND RHINO PHOTOGRAPHIC SAFARI
One Horned Rhinoceros or the Indian Rhino is the second-largest Rhinoceros among the five different species of Rhino in the world, the largest being the White Rhino from Africa. The four other species are the White Rhino, the Black Rhino which are from Africa whereas the Javan and the Sumatran Rhino are the Asian species.
Indian Rhino has an armored body that looks like an animal from ancient time has a thick dark grey color folded skin with pinkish color inside. It has very little hair, they have hairs in eyelashes, ear fringes and some hair at the tip of the tail. The upper part of the legs, shoulder and back is covered with wart-like bumps. Both males and females have a single horn just above its snouts facing slightly backward. The male has a huge fold of the skin on its neck.
With head and the body, the average length of a male One-horned Rhinoceros is around 12 feet and a female would be a little smaller of around 11 feet body length with head. A male of a One-horned Rhinoceros can grow up to 6 feet from the ground to the shoulder and a female would get the height of around 5.5 feet.
Among the terrestrial mammals, the One-Horned Rhinoceros is the second largest mammal native to Asia after the Asiatic Elephant. A male on average can weigh around 2200 kg (4850 lb) and a female would grow at the average weight of around 1600 kg (3530 lb).
Distribution and Habitat
India and Nepal are the only place in the world where we can find the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros in the wild. Kaziranga National Park is one of the well-known National Parks in the state of Assam in the North-Eastern part of India. Some of the other areas where we can find this majestic animal are Jaldapara National Park in West Bengal, Manas National Park again in Assam, and the Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh.
As being a large mammal, the amount of food required by One-horned Rhinoceros is more, so the One-horned rhinoceros lives in the dense vegetation of the foothills of the Himalayas. Tall grasslands with wetlands around are the best habitat. The feeding habit of aquatic plants requires an abundance of water around their surroundings.
Greater One-horned Rhinoceros are solitary animals, except for mothers with calf. A calf would stay with mother for 03 to 04 years, in some cases, they stay for around 05 years. However, being said to be solitary you may see them together during peak summer in the month of April when the water is scarce. I have experience seeing 10 Rhinoceros together in a single water body. Males live alone in the loosely specified territory which they defend vigorously, which may overlap with other’s territories. Food availability in connection to the prevailing season affects the territories. Females have complete freedom to move in and out of these territories. When food is plentiful in a given region, it is not uncommon to see multiple animals grazing together.
Male Greater one-horned rhinos battle ferociously for their favored habitat. A single male’s death in one of these battles is not rare; it usually occurs a few days after the fight, as a result of wounds inflicted during the fight.
The Greater One-horned Rhino dung mounds, also known as ‘Middens,’ function as communication hubs and territory markers. Several animals will frequently defecate in the same area. A dung heap of this size can grow to be 05 meters wide and 01 meters tall. Greater one-horned rhinos scratch their hind feet in the excrement after defecating. They ‘transfer’ their own smell throughout the pathways by continuing to walk, resulting in a scent-marked track that the Rhino walks through claiming the area as his own.
One-horned Rhino similar to some of the other animals wallows in the mud. Sometimes, especially during summer, we see them with a mud color painted on their entire body, which helps them keep their body cool and also helps them to get rid of the ticks and flees.
The Greater one-horned Rhino or the Indian rhinos are reticent breeders, meaning that the male and female’s desires for courtship and mating behavior may not always coincide. Males, like females, go through a time of heat, and these phases must coincide before mating.
The courtship of rhinos is a complex behavior that occurs before mating and establishes a social and sexual relationship between the individuals. Relationships between a cow and a bull can extend for several days or even weeks. To attract male, a female in heat makes characteristic rutting noises and squirts urine at short intervals. These mating cries are low-pitched, often accompanied by a deep sigh, and resemble a groaning sound with no nasal exhalations. The mating cries heard in RRA were short-lived but came at regular intervals; each bout had at least 10-20 calls. The female usually rushes at the male at the start of courtship and even chases him. The male usually pursues the female at a trot or gallop, as if it were a horse. Occasionally, the animals may face each other and battle with their horns and teeth.
The female becomes submissive and agrees to mate after a successful courtship display. The female takes a step backward in front of the male, her hindquarters turned in his direction. The male mounts her with his forelegs on her rump.
Mating might take anywhere from 20 to 75 minutes. The male dismounted immediately after mating was completed, and both couples dispersed from the mating place. Following the conclusion of mating, no additional relationship was found. Dragging behavior was also recorded in copulating male and female rhinos, with the female carrying the male for more than 60 meters’ distance on her back.
After the gestation period of 16 months, a female gives birth to a calf.
One-horned Rhinoceros have an average lifespan of 40-45 years in the wild. There is no predator as such for an adult Rhinoceros. Even the biggest predator of India, the Tiger, rarely hunts the Rhino. However, they are very vulnerable when they are young or at old age.
One of the main reasons for the decline of the rhino population is the elimination of alluvial plain grasses. The increasing need for land by the human population today poses a threat to the species. Many One-horned Rhino protected areas have achieved their capacity to accommodate a certain number of individuals. As rhinos exit the bounds of protected areas to forage in the adjacent settlements, this leads to human-rhino conflict. Rhinos are known to kill humans in India and Nepal.
Illegal Wildlife Trade:
The other greatest threat to the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros is poaching for the illegal trade of rhino horns. The horn is known in traditional Asian medicine for a range of diseases, including epilepsy, fevers, and cancer, despite the lack of scientific proof of its medicinal effectiveness.
The conservationist now has enhanced the anti-poaching team and guards in protected areas. In Nepal now the Rhinos are guarded by the Armies.
The corridors for re-establishing the healthy population of Greater One-horned Rhinoceros are restored.
Places like Kaziranga in India and Chitwan in Nepal have done so well in conservation. Now these places help in providing the Rhino for other parts of the country. There has been the translocation of the Rhino to the sparsely populated area.
Another Technique is collaborating with the locals, educating them with the knowledge about the species, and explaining to them about the financial benefits of the presence of this majestic animal.
Best Place to see Rhino
Kaziranga National Park in India has almost 75 percent of the total population of Greater One-horned Rhinoceros, and is one of the best places to see One-horned Rhinoceros in India. There are places like Manas and Dudhwa which also have the chance of seeing the Rhino. However, the population being less and the habitat being very dense to find one is the task.
Apart from India in Nepal, the Chitwan National Park towards the south of Nepal is also one of the best places to see the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros.