Found in northern Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Assam.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
Currently, the Indian rhinoceros exists in a few small subpopulations in the Nepal and India (West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Assam) (Foose and van Strien 1997; Grubb, 2005), with an unsuccessful reintroduction of a pair in 1983 into Pakistan.
Both male and female R. unicornis have a single dark horn on the nose measuring up to 529 mm, which is made from agglutinated hairs. Their skin has many loose folds, especially distinct around the neck region in males, which give the appearance of a suit of armor. The skin is covered with large tubercules.
Range mass: 1500 to 2000 kg.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Alluvial plain is the primary and preferred habitat. Adjacent swamp and forest areas are also used.
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest
Habitat and Ecology
Its life history characteristics are not well known, with longevity estimated at about 30-45 years, gestation length of approximately 16 months (as with other rhino species), and age at sexual maturity estimated at 5-7 years for females and 10 years for males (Nowak, 1999; IRF website, 2006).
The diet consists of grass, fruit, leaves, branches, aquatic plants, and cultivated crops. Tall reedy grasses are preferred to short species. The prehensile upper lip is used to curl around grass stems to bring them into the mouth. When eating aquatic plants, rhinos submerge their entire heads and tear the plant up by the roots. Foraging occurs at night, in early morning, or late afternoon to avoid the heat of the day. Rhinoceros unicornis drinks daily and is fond of mineral licks.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Status: wild: 40.0 years.
Status: captivity: 47.0 years.
Status: wild: 49.0 years.
Status: wild: 45.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Breeding occurs throughout the year. Only dominant bulls mate, and it is believed that they can assess the reproductive status of females through scent. Courtship may seem aggressive--males chase females and fighting often ensues. After a gestation period of 480 days, one young is born weighing 70 kg. Weaning usually occurs in one year, although it may last up to 18 months. Females have young at intervals of about three years. One week before the next birth, the female will chase away her previous calf. Sexual maturity is reached at an age of 9 years for males, and 4 for females. The lifespan is about 40 years.
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
Average birth mass: 58000 g.
Average gestation period: 479 days.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 2557 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 1678 days.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Rhinoceros unicornis
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
-- end --
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Rhinoceros unicornis
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
Total wild populations number 1700. Rhinoceros unicornis is severely threated by hunting activities due to the huge economic value of the horn. This species is listed endangered by the IUCN and USDI and is on Appendix 1 of CITES. Current projects are underway to reintroduced populations in areas where they have been extirpated. Such projects will only be successful if the reason for the initial downfall of rhinos --overhunting by humans--can be eliminated. Efforts to control poaching and illegal wildlife trade will help in the recovery of the Indian rhino. One population in Nepal is protected with 700 armed troops and rangers, almost 2 guards per rhino. Aside from overhunting, the loss of alluvial plain habitat to agriculture has resulted in a reduction of suitable rhino habitat.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1994Endangered(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Endangered(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Endangered(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Endangered(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
Date Listed: 12/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Nepal, India
Population location: Nepal, India
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Rhinoceros unicornis , see its USFWS Species Profile
The species exists in several protected areas in India, with the following population estimates in May 2007 (Asian Rhino Specialist Group 2007): Dudhwa National Park (21), Manas National Park (3), Karteniaghat (2), Kaziranga National Park (1,855 in 2006; 1,551 in 1999), Orang (68 in 2006; 46 in 1999), Pabitora (81 in 2006; 74 in 1999, 79 in 2004), Jaldapara (108 in 2006; 96 in 2004; 84 in 2002), Gorumara (27 in 2006; 25 in 2004; 22 in 2002). Estimates given in Foose et al. (1997) were as follows: Dudhwa National Park (11), Manas National Park (60), Karteniaghat (4), Kaziranga (1164 +/- 134), Orang (over 90), Pabitora (80 individuals over 38.8 km²) (Choudhury, 2005), Jaldapara (over 33), Gorumara (13), and a few remaining small populations in Assam. Kaziranga National Park, which was established as a reserve for the last 10-20 Indian rhinos in Assam in 1905, is home to over 70% of the global population of this species. Poaching rendered the species extinct in Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary by the mid-1990s (Foose et al., 1997), and there has also been a severe decline in Manas National Park due to poaching related to civil unrest. The overall population tendency is to increase (especially in Kaziranga, Pabitora, Dudhwa, Jaldapara and Gorumura), with decreases in Manas, Orang (now increasing again) and Laokhowa. The population in Karteniaghat is best described as transient (S.S. Bist pers. comm.).
In the late 1960s, an estimated 65 Indian rhinos survived in Nepal, but due to increased conservation efforts, the total population was up to 612 in 2000. A total of at least 91 animals were poached in 2000-2003 (Martin, 2004), and since 2000, numbers have declined. In Royal Chitwan National Park, the number of individuals has declined from 544 individuals in 2000, to 372 individuals in 2005 (Asian Rhino Specialist Group 2007), the decrease being due to increased poaching following political instability in Nepal (Rothley et al., 2004; Khan et al., 2005), and habitat changes. In Royal Bardia National Park (where rhinos were re-introduced) there were approximately 40 individuals in 1997 (Foose et al., 1997) and 35 animals in 2007 (Asian Rhino Specialist Group 2007). In Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve (where the species was also re-introduced), the population is only six individuals (Martin, 2004; Asian Rhino Specialist Group 2007).
A pair of rhinos was introduced into Lal Sohanra National Park in 1983, but have not bred.
However, not all recent population decreases can be linked to poaching. There have been serious declines in quality of habitat in some areas. This is due to: 1) severe invasion by alien plants into grasslands affecting some populations; 2) demonstrated reductions in the extent of grasslands and wetland habitats due to woodland encroachment and silting up of beels; and 3) grazing by domestic livestock. In Chitwan (the second largest population) there is clear evidence that poaching on its own does not account for the observed level of population decline (R.H. Emslie pers. comm.), and there are trends in a number of reproductive indicators (i.e., decline in the percentage of adult females calving and in the percentage of the population that is calves) that are strongly indicative of negative changes in habitat quality. In Chitwan there has been severe infestation of some riverine and grassland areas by the climbing Mikania micrantha (which covers over indigenous vegetation), and invasion of Eupatorium in other areas. There is also heavy livestock grazing pressure and disturbance in buffer zone areas as well as some invasion of grasslands by Acacia catechu and Dalbergia sissou. It has been reported that grassland area in Chitwan has been reduced from 20% to 4.7% of the national park (R.H. Emslie pers. comm.).
In India, there is not yet any evidence that invasion by alien plants has caused any population decreases. However, in Orang National Park, there have been marked habitat changes due to grazing, human encroachment and silting up. In particular, short grass areas have declined by 75% due to silting up and draining of beels (B.N. Talukdar pers. comm.). Mimosa is also an alien invader in this area. In the Karnali floodplain area of Bardia there is also some invasion of habitat by the alien Lantana camara.
In Pabitora there has been an invasion of Ipomoea "weeds" into grassland areas (S. Dutta pers. comm.). There also has been an invasion of woodland into grassland and siltation and drying up of some water bodies. There also has been some human encroachment and very heavy livestock grazing. With increasing human densities this pressure is unlikely to get any less (S. Dutta pers. comm.). Analysis of satellite imagery has shown that there has a substantial increase in woodland (34.51%) in Pabitora since 1977 accompanied by decline in alluvial grassland (68%). This change of habitat is mostly because of natural succession process, livestock grazing from the nearby villages as well as improper management of the grassland habitat (Sarma et al., in press).
The West Bengal populations (Jaldapara and Gorumara) are affected by high levels of grazing from fringe villages, and there have been weed and climber infestations by Mikania cordata, M. scandens, Lantana camara and Leea spp.
The species is inherently at risk because over 70% of its population occurs at a single site, Kaziranga National Park. This area, is subject to poaching and tensions with the surrounding high human population due to human-wildlife conflicts (including conflicts with rhinos). The level of poaching in Kaziranga has generally not been at a level to prevent the ongoing increase in the population, but constant vigilance is required. Clearly, any catastrophic event in Kaziranga (such as disease, civil disorder, poaching, habitat loss, etc) would have a devastating impact on the status of this species.
Sex-ratio among the adult rhinos in Gorumara National Park is almost 1:1. As a result, intra-specific fights among the bulls are very common and these animals have a tendency to stray out of the National Park very often, leading to human-wildlife conflicts (S.S. Bist pers. comm.).
There are suggestions that the small population of rhinos in Jaldapara and Gorumara may be prone to in-breeding depression (S.S. Bist pers. comm.).
There have been proposals to dam the Bramaphutra River in Arunachal Pradesh, and should this happen in future this could very negatively affect the habitat quality and rhino carrying capacity of major parks like Kaziranga in future (by preventing or reducing the pulse of nutrients brought in by regular large floods). In Jaldapara Sanctuary, the River Torsa no longer overflows as a result of massive flood-control structures. As a result the water table in the sanctuary is receding and the natural water-bodies and wallow-pools used by rhinos are slowly drying up (S.S. Bist pers. comm.).
Indian Rhino populations occur almost exclusively within and around protected areas. In India, the species occurs in Kaziranga National Park (World Heritage Site), Manas National Park (World Heritage Site in danger), Dudhwa National Park (re-introduced population), Karteniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, Orang National Park, Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, and Gorumara National Park. In Nepal, the species occurs in Royal Chitwan National Park, Royal Bardia National Park (re-introduced population), and Royal Suklaphanta Wildife Reserve (a very small re-introduced population). Strict anti-poaching measures are needed to maintain all of these populations. It is also important to reduce human-wildlife conflicts around these areas, and this might involve fencing. Many of the areas also require targeted programmes to control invasive plants, to prevent the spread of woodland, to safeguard wetlands through appropriate water management, and to limit the extent of grazing by domestic livestock. In Pabitora, specific recommendations have been made to increase the quality of feeding habitat of rhino within the sanctuary through meticulous manipulation and checking livestock grazing (Sarma et al., in press). Water holding mechanisms within the sanctuary during winter are crucial in terms of keeping moist grassland available in winter seasons, thereby reducing the number of rhinos straying out of the sanctuary and thus exposing themselves to poaching (Sarma et al., in press).
The area of Kaziranga National Park has officially been extended, although animals had access to this area previously as the original park area was not fenced. In West Bengal (Jaldapara and Gorumara), there is a programme of habitat improvement in old teak areas, weed control is being carried out in 50-60 ha annually.
With the support of the IUCN SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group, an Indian Rhino Vision 2020 and a Nepal Rhino Action Plan have been developed. These cover a number of important and specific conservation measures, including: translocating rhinos to bolster struggling populations (e.g., Manas National Park) and to start new populations; improving security around rhino populations and reducing poaching; assessing habitat status and management needs; expanding available habitat through active management; improving protected area infrastructure; training staff in specific rhino conservation techniques; reducing human-wildlife conflicts; involving local people in rhino conservation; and implementing education and awareness programmes. Overall, there is a need for further reintroductions, thereby reducing the concentration of over 70% of the individuals in one large population.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Rhinos have been known to injure crops by trampling and consumption. At one point, a government bounty was established to keep rhinos from ruining tea plantations. In addition, there are recorded fatalities as a result of an attacks by rhinos, usually when a mother with calf was startled.
Negative Impacts: injures humans; crop pest
Asian rhino horn can be sold for more than twice its weight in gold. After processing, it has been known to reach $30,000 per kg. The horn is used as a medicine and an aphrodisiac. Medicinal purposes are as a pain reliever and a fever suppressant. There are no scientific studies, however, that show that rhino horn is effective for any of these purposes. In addition to the horn, rhino hide, blood, urine, and dung also have economic value.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material
The Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), also called the greater one-horned rhinoceros and Indian one-horned rhinoceros, belongs to the family Rhinocerotidae. Listed as a vulnerable species, the large mammal is primarily found in north-eastern India's Assam and in protected areas in the Terai of Nepal, where populations are confined to the riverine grasslands in the foothills of the Himalayas.
The Indian rhinoceros once ranged throughout the entire stretch of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, but excessive hunting reduced their range drastically. Today, more than 3,000 rhinos live in the wild. In 2014, 2,544 of which are found in India's Assam alone, an increase by 27 percent since 2006, although in early the 1900s, Assam had about 200 rhinos only.
The Indian rhinoceros has a thick grey-brown skin with pinkish skin folds and a black horn. Its upper legs and shoulders are covered in wart-like bumps. It has very little body hair, aside from eyelashes, ear fringes and tail brush. Males have huge neck folds. Its skull is heavy with a basal length above 60 cm (24 in) and an occiput above 19 cm (7.5 in). Its nasal horn is slightly back-curved with a base of about 18.5 cm (7.3 in) by 12 cm (4.7 in) that rapidly narrows until a smooth, even stem part begins about 55 mm (2.2 in) above base. In captive animals, the horn is frequently worn down to a thick knob.
The rhino's single horn is present in both males and females, but not on newborn young. The black horn is pure keratin, like human fingernails, and starts to show after about six years. In most adults, the horn reaches a length of about 25 cm (9.8 in), but has been recorded up to 57.2 cm (22.5 in) in length.
Among terrestrial land mammals native to Asia, the Indian rhinoceros is second in size only to the Asian elephant. It is also the second-largest living rhinoceros, behind only the white rhinoceros. Males have an average head and body length of 368–380 cm (12.07–12.47 ft) with a shoulder height of 170–186 cm (5.58–6.10 ft), while females have an average head and body length of 310–340 cm (10.2–11.2 ft) and a shoulder height of 148–173 cm (4.86–5.68 ft). The male, averaging 2,200 kg (4,900 lb) is heavier than the female, at an average of 1,600 kg (3,500 lb).
The rich presence of blood vessels underneath the tissues in folds gives it the pinkish colour. The folds in the skin increase the surface area and help in regulating the body temperature. The thick skin does not protect against bloodsucking Tabanus flies, leeches and ticks.
The largest sized specimens range up to 4,000 kg (8,800 lb).
Distribution and habitat
One-horned rhinos once ranged across the entire northern part of the Indian Subcontinent, along the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra River basins, from Pakistan to the Indian-Burmese border, including Bangladesh and the southern parts of Nepal and Bhutan. They may have also occurred in Myanmar, southern China and Indochina. They inhabit the alluvial plain grasslands of the Terai and the Brahmaputra basin. As a result of habitat destruction and climatic changes their range has gradually been reduced so that by the 19th century, they only survived in the Terai grasslands of southern Nepal, northern Uttar Pradesh, northern Bihar, northern Bengal, and in the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam.
This huge rhinoceros is found in the Terai at the foot of the Himalayas, from Bhotan to Nepal. It is more common in the eastern portion of the Terai than the west, and is most abundant in Assam and the Bhotan Dooars. I have heard from sportsmen of its occurrence as far west as Rohilcund, but it is certainly rare there now, and indeed along the greater part of the Nepal Terai; ... Jelpigoree, a small military station near the Teesta River, was a favourite locality whence to hunt the Rhinoceros and it was from that station Captain Fortescue ... got his skulls, which were ... the first that Mr. Blyth had seen of this species, ...
Today, their range has further shrunk to a few pockets in southern Nepal, northern Bengal, and the Brahmaputra Valley. In the 1980s, rhinos were frequently seen in the narrow plain area of Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan. Today, they are restricted to habitats surrounded by human-dominated landscapes, so that they often occur in adjacent cultivated areas, pastures, and secondary forests.
Rhinos are regionally extinct in Pakistan.
In 2007, the total population was estimated to be 2,575 individuals, of which 2,200 lived in Indian protected areas:
- in Kaziranga National Park: 2329 (2012 estimate)— increased from 366 in 1966
- in Jaldapara National Park: 108 — increased from 84 in 2002
- in Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary: 81 — increased from 54 in 1987
- in Orang National Park: 68 — increased from 35 in 1972
- in Gorumara: 27 — increased from 22 in 2002
- in Dudhwa National Park: 21
- in Manas National Park: 19
- in Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary: 2
Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary shelters the highest density of Indian rhinos in the world — with 84 individuals in 2009 in an area of 38.80 km2 (14.98 sq mi).
The population of rhinos in Nepal increased by 99 individuals from 2008 to 2011 and in 2011 totaled 503. Of these, 145 were male, 183 female, and 175 of unidentified gender; 332 were adults, 111 were calves and 60 were of intermediate age.
Ecology and behavior
Rhinos are mostly solitary creatures, with the exception of mothers and calves and breeding pairs, although they sometimes congregate at bathing areas. They have home ranges, those of males being usually 2 to 8 km2 (0.77 to 3.09 sq mi) and overlapping each other. Dominant males tolerate males passing through their territories except when they are in mating season, when dangerous fights break out. They are active at night and early morning. They spend the middle of the day wallowing in lakes, rivers, ponds, and puddles to cool down. They are very good swimmers. Over 10 distinct vocalizations have been recorded.
Indian rhinos bathe regularly. The folds in their skin trap water and hold it even when they come back on land.
Indian rhinos have few natural enemies, except for tigers, which sometimes kill unguarded calves, but adult rhinos are less vulnerable due to their size. Mynahs and egrets both eat invertebrates from the rhino's skin and around its feet. Tabanus flies, a type of horse-fly, are known to bite rhinos. The rhinos are also vulnerable to diseases spread by parasites such as leeches, ticks, and nematodes. Anthrax and the blood-disease septicemia are known to occur.
They can run at speeds of up to 55 km/h (34 mph) for short periods and are excellent swimmers. They have excellent senses of hearing and smell, but relatively poor eyesight.
Indian rhinoceros are grazers. Their diets consist almost entirely of grasses, but they also eat leaves, branches of shrubs and trees, fruits, and submerged and floating aquatic plants. They feed in the mornings and evenings. They use their prehensile lips to grasp grass stems, bend the stem down, bite off the top, and then eat the grass. They tackle very tall grasses or saplings by walking over the plant, with legs on both sides and using the weight of their bodies to push the end of the plant down to the level of the mouth. Mothers also use this technique to make food edible for their calves. They drink for a minute or two at a time, often imbibing water filled with rhinoceros urine.
The Indian rhinoceros forms a variety of social groupings. Adult males are generally solitary, except for mating and fighting. Adult females are largely solitary when they are without calves. Mothers will stay close to their calves for up to four years after their birth, sometimes allowing an older calf to continue to accompany her once a newborn calf arrives. Subadult males and females form consistent groupings, as well. Groups of two or three young males will often form on the edge of the home ranges of dominant males, presumably for protection in numbers. Young females are slightly less social than the males. Indian rhinos also form short-term groupings, particularly at forest wallows during the monsoon season and in grasslands during March and April. Groups of up to 10 rhinos may gather in wallows—typically a dominant male with females and calves, but no subadult males.
The Indian rhinoceros makes a wide variety of vocalizations. At least 10 distinct vocalizations have been identified: snorting, honking, bleating, roaring, squeak-panting, moo-grunting, shrieking, groaning, rumbling and humphing. In addition to noises, the rhino uses olfactory communication. Adult males urinate backwards, as far as 3–4 m behind them, often in response to being disturbed by observers. Like all rhinos, the Indian rhinoceros often defecates near other large dung piles. The Indian rhino has pedal scent glands which are used to mark their presence at these rhino latrines. Males have been observed walking with their heads to the ground as if sniffing, presumably following the scent of females.
In aggregations, Indian rhinos are often friendly. They will often greet each other by waving or bobbing their heads, mounting flanks, nuzzling noses, or licking. Rhinos will playfully spar, run around, and play with twigs in their mouths. Adult males are the primary instigators in fights. Fights between dominant males are the most common cause of rhino mortality, and males are also very aggressive toward females during courtship. Males will chase females over long distances and even attack them face-to-face. Unlike African rhinos, the Indian rhino fights with its incisors, rather than its horns.
Captive males breed at five years of age, but wild males attain dominance much later when they are larger. In one five-year field study, only one rhino estimated to be younger than 15 years mated successfully. Captive females breed as young as four years of age, but in the wild, they usually start breeding only when six years old, which likely indicates they need to be large enough to avoid being killed by aggressive males. Their gestation period is around 15.7 months, and birth interval ranges from 34–51 months.
In captivity, four rhinos are known to have lived over 40 years, the oldest living to be 47.
Sport hunting became common in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Indian rhinos were hunted relentlessly and persistently. Reports from the middle of the 19th century claim that some British military officers in Assam individually shot more than 200 rhinos. By 1908, the population in Kaziranga had decreased to around 12 individuals. In the early 1900s, the species had declined to near extinction.
Poaching for rhinoceros horn became the single most important reason for the decline of the Indian rhino after conservation measures were put in place from the beginning of the 20th century, when legal hunting ended. From 1980 to 1993, 692 rhinos were poached in India. In India's Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary, 41 rhinos were killed in 1983, virtually the entire population of the sanctuary. By the mid-1990s, poaching had rendered the species extinct there.
In 1950, Chitwan’s forest and grasslands extended over more than 2,600 km2 (1,000 sq mi) and were home to about 800 rhinos. When poor farmers from the mid-hills moved to the Chitwan Valley in search of arable land, the area was subsequently opened for settlement, and poaching of wildlife became rampant. The Chitwan population has repeatedly been jeopardized by poaching; in 2002 alone, poachers have killed 37 animals to saw off and sell their valuable horns.
Six methods of killing rhinos have been recorded:
- Shooting is by far the most common method used; rhino horn traders hire sharpshooters and often supply them with rifles and ammunition.
- Trapping in a pit depends largely on the terrain and availability of grass to cover it; pits are dug out in such a way that a fallen animal has little room to manoeuvre with its head slightly above the pit, so that it is easy to saw off the horn.
- Electrocution is used where high voltage powerlines pass through or near a protected area, to which poachers hook a long, insulated rod connected to a wire, which is suspended above a rhino path.
- Poisoning by smearing zinc phosphide rat poison or pesticides on salt licks frequently used by rhinos is sometimes used.
- Spearing has only been recorded in Chitwan National Park.
- A noose, which cuts through the rhino's skin, kills it by strangulation.
Poaching, mainly for the use of the horn in traditional Chinese medicine, has remained a constant and has led to decreases in several important populations. Apart from this, serious declines in quality of habitat have occurred in some areas, due to:
- severe invasion by alien plants into grasslands affecting some populations;
- demonstrated reductions in the extent of grasslands and wetland habitats due to woodland encroachment and silting up of beels;
- grazing by domestic livestock.
The species is inherently at risk because over 70% of its population occurs at a single site, Kaziranga National Park. Any catastrophic event such as disease, civil disorder, poaching, or habitat loss would have a devastating impact on the Indian rhino's status.However, small population of rhinos may be prone to inbreeding depression.
Rhinoceros unicornis is listed in CITES Appendix I since 1975. The Indian and Nepalese governments have taken major steps towards Indian rhinoceros conservation, especially with the help of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and other nongovernmental organizations. In the early 1980s, a rhino translocation scheme was initiated. The first pair of rhinos was reintroduced from Nepal's Terai to Pakistan's Lal Suhanra National Park in Punjab in 1982.
In 1910, all rhino hunting in India became prohibited. In 1984, five rhinos were relocated to Dudhwa National Park — four from the fields outside the Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary and one from Goalpara.
In 1957, the country's first conservation law insured the protection of rhinos and their habitat. In 1959, Edward Pritchard Gee undertook a survey of the Chitwan Valley, and recommended the creation of a protected area north of the Rapti River and of a wildlife sanctuary south of the river for a trial period of 10 years. After his subsequent survey of Chitwan in 1963, he recommended extension of the sanctuary to the south. By the end of the 1960s, only 95 rhinos remained in the Chitwan Valley. The dramatic decline of the rhino population and the extent of poaching prompted the government to institute the Gaida Gasti – a rhino reconnaissance patrol of 130 armed men and a network of guard posts all over Chitwan. To prevent the extinction of rhinos, the Chitwan National Park was gazetted in December 1970, with borders delineated the following year and established in 1973, initially encompassing an area of 544 km2 (210 sq mi). Since 1973, the population has recovered well and increased to 544 animals around the turn of the century. To ensure the survival of rhinos in case of epidemics, animals were translocated annually from Chitwan to the Bardia National Park and the Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve since 1986.
The Indian rhinoceros was initially difficult to breed in captivity. The first recorded captive birth of a rhinoceros was in Kathmandu in 1826, but another successful birth did not occur for nearly 100 years. In 1925, a rhino was born in Kolkata. No rhinoceros was successfully bred in Europe until 1956. On September 14, 1956, Rudra was born in Zoo Basel, Switzerland. In the second half of the 20th century, zoos became adept at breeding Indian rhinoceros. By 1983, nearly 40 babies had been born in captivity. As of 2012, 33 Indian rhinos were born at Zoo Basel, which means that most animals kept in a zoo are somehow related to the population in the zoo of Basel, Switzerland. Due to the success of Zoo Basel's breeding program, the International Studbook for the species has been kept there since 1972. Since 1990, the Indian rhino European Endangered Species Programme is being coordinated there, as well, which ensures that the captive global Indian rhinoceros population stays genetically as healthy as possible. As of 2010, 174 rhinos are kept in zoos worldwide.
In June 2009, an Indian rhino was artificially inseminated using sperm collected four years previously and cryopreserved at the Cincinnati Zoo’s CryoBioBank before being thawed and used. She gave birth to a male calf in October 2010. The calf died 12 hours after birth.
In June 2014, the first "successful" live-birth from an artificially inseminated rhino took place at the Buffalo Zoo in New York. As in Cincinnati, cryopreserved sperm was used to produce the female calf, Monica.
The modern scientific designation Rhinoceros unicornis is adopted from the Greek: ρινό- ("rhino-" — nose) and -κερος ("-keros" — horn of an animal) and Latin: "uni-" meaning single and "-cornis" meaning horn.
The one-horned rhinoceros is monotypic. Several specimen were described since the end of the 18th century under different scientific names, which are all considered synonyms of Rhinoceros unicornis today:
- R. indicus by Cuvier, 1817
- R. asiaticus by Blumenbach, 1830
- R. stenocephalus by Gray, 1867
- R. jamrachi by Sclatter, 1876
- R. bengalensis by Kourist, 1970
Ancestral rhinoceroses first diverged from other perissodactyls in the Early Eocene. Mitochondrial DNA comparison suggests the ancestors of modern rhinos split from the ancestors of Equidae around 50 million years ago. The extant family, the Rhinocerotidae, first appeared in the Late Eocene in Eurasia, and the ancestors of the extant rhino species dispersed from Asia beginning in the Miocene.
Fossils of R. unicornis appear in the Middle Pleistocene. In the Pleistocene, the genus Rhinoceros ranged throughout South and Southeast Asia, with specimens located on Sri Lanka. Into the Holocene, some rhinoceros lived as far west as Gujarat and Pakistan until as recently as 3,200 years ago.
The Indian and Javan rhinoceroses, the only members of the genus Rhinoceros, first appear in the fossil record in Asia around 1.6 million–3.3 million years ago. Molecular estimates, however, suggest the species may have diverged much earlier, around 11.7 million years ago. Although belonging to the type genus, the Indian and Javan rhinoceroses are not believed to be closely related to other rhino species. Different studies have hypothesized that they may be closely related to the extinct Gaindetherium or Punjabitherium. A detailed cladistic analysis of the Rhinocerotidae placed Rhinoceros and the extinct Punjabitherium in a clade with Dicerorhinus, the Sumatran rhinoceros. Other studies have suggested the Sumatran rhinoceros is more closely related to the two African species. The Sumatran rhino may have diverged from the other Asian rhinos as long as 15 million years ago.
|Dimensions||24.8 cm × 31.7 cm (9.8 in × 12.5 in)|
The Indian rhinoceros was the first rhino widely known outside its range. The first rhinoceros to reach Europe in modern times arrived in Lisbon on May 20, 1515. King Manuel I of Portugal planned to send the rhinoceros to Pope Leo X, but the rhino perished in a shipwreck. Before dying, the rhino had been sketched by an unknown artist. The German artist Albrecht Dürer saw the sketches and descriptions and carved a woodcut of the rhino, known ever after as Dürer's Rhinoceros. Though the drawing had some anatomical inaccuracies (notably the hornlet protruding from the rhino's shoulder), his sketch became the enduring image of a rhinoceros in western culture for centuries.
The British public had their first chance to view a rhinoceros (presumably this species) in 1683; it unknowingly caused a political row when the notorious Judge Jeffreys, in one of his lighter moments, spread a rumour that his chief rival, Lord Guildford, had been seen riding on it.
The Assam state of India uses the one-horned rhino as its official state animal. It is also the organizational logo for Assam Oil Company Ltd.
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