Indian Wildlife’s Unicorns – The One Horned Indian Rhino is built like a tank and tough as steel, who would ever think that the rhinoceros is in danger of extinction. But then again, you wouldn’t really think it was related to a horse either, would you?
Often overshadowed by the tiger, the Indian One Horned Rhino is actually the subject of one of the most successful conservation efforts of a species. In the mid-70s fewer than 600 of these incredible creatures were left. Thanks to a proactive conservation effort to save the species and it’s habitat, today we have over 3000 in existence.
Evolution of Indian Wildlife’s Unicorns
Rhinos have been in existence on the planet for over 50 million years. In fact, the rhino is one of the oldest living creatures on the planet, and is one of only three families of a group of animals known as Perissodactyla or odd-toed ungulates. The other two are Equidae (equine species such as horses, asses and zebras) and Tapiridae (Tapirs).
Species of Indian Wildlife’s Unicorns
There are five varieties of Rhinos. While the African rhinos have two horns, the Indian species have one. The Indian rhino is the most prolific group in existence and is also known as the Great Rhino. Rhinos are grazers and are found primarily in the grasses of the Terai Arc region in India and Nepal. Kaziranga and Chitwan respectively account for the majority of the population between them. But smaller parks like Pobitora have growing populations.
A rhino has excellent hearing and a sharp sense of smell. It’s eyesight, by contrast, is very poor and it can barely see up to about 30 meters away. These herbivores tend to live on grasses and leaves. They are often found cooling off in a pool of mud. There’s a reason for this. Mud protects their hide against the sun, and also wards off bugs. They are territorial creatures and prefer to roam solitary, marking their territory with piles of droppings in a pre-designated dumping ground, which is called a “midden”.
Indian Wildlife’s Unicorns – The One Horned Indian Rhino
Rhinos are among the largest animals on the planet and have no known predators. However, the minute they feel the slightest bit threatened, they’re inclined to charge. Male rhinos can be aggressive, especially when it’s time to mate. So it’s not uncommon for them to gore each other with their horns. In ancient times, rhinos were preyed upon by giant crocodiles, hyenas and a “bear-dog” a European beast which has now become extinct. Even large mammals like tigers and elephants cut the rhino a wide berth, preferring to avoid a conflict as far as possible. A couple of thousand kilos in weight, a rhino charge can be fatal to the victim. However, sadly, their greatest predator today is man.
Another threat to the rhinos is flooding. Assam recently had a spate of heavy floods when the Brahmaputra overflowed after a particularly heavy monsoon. This left several Rhinos marooned on islands of land until the flood waters abated. While several animals migrated from their usual territories to find higher ground, some of them succumbed to the floods and drowned.
Rhinos are often seen with birds fluttering around them or hitching a ride on their backs. These are Oxpeckers, and there is a unique relationship between these birds and the rhinoceros. Some researchers believe they’re beneficial to the rhino while others feel that they do more harm than good, but the fact remains that the Oxpecker and the Rhino coexist peacefully with one another.
In India, the Rhino is found throughout the grasslands of the Terai Arc biosphere. The north eastern parks, particularly Manas and Kaziranga, have healthy populations of Rhinos that are often seen among large tracts of grass. Dudhwa and Pilibhit also have rhinos, as do Chitwan and Bardia in Nepal.
Rhinos are one of India’s big five and a trip into the dense Terai grasslands to spot these creatures is exhilarating. Reach out to us today to learn more about exploring those far-flung forests where these magnificent creatures roam wild.
Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered.
Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park.
Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here’s a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger.