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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 8:55 EDT

Indian Rhinoceros

The Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), also known as the Great
One-horned Rhinoceros, is a large mammal found in Nepal and in Assam, India. The rhino once inhabited areas from Pakistan to Burma and may have even roamed in China. But because of human influence their range has shrunk and now they only exist in small populations in northeastern India and Nepal. These rhinos live in tall grasslands and wetland forests, but due to habitat loss they have been forced into more cultivated land.

This prehistoric-looking rhinoceros has thick, silver-brown skin which creates huge folds all over its body. Its upper legs and shoulders are covered in wart-like bumps, and it has very little body hair. With size equal to that of the white rhino in Africa, it is the fourth-largest land animal, after the three elephant species. Fully grown males are larger than females in the wild, weighing from 4,800 – 6,600 lbs. Female Indian rhinos weigh about 3500 lbs. Both males and females have a single horn, but are not present in newborn and young. The horn begins to show after about 6 years and reaches a length of up to 40 inches.

They are mostly solitary creatures, with the exception of mothers and calves and breeding pairs, although they sometimes congregate at bathing areas. Males keep home ranges of 2-8 km that usually overlap with other rhinos. Dominant males tolerate males passing through their territory except when they are in mating season, when dangerous fights break out. They are active during the day and spend the middle of the day wallowing in lakes, rivers, ponds, and puddles to cool down. They are extremely good swimmers. On land they can run up to speeds of 35 mph for short periods of time. They have excellent hearing but relatively poor eyesight.

The Indian Rhinoceros is a grazer. Their diet includes grasses, leaves, aquatic plants and fruits. Feeding occurs during the morning and evening where they use their prehensile lip to grasp grass stems. Indian rhinos use lower incisor teeth as a slashing weapon. They do not use their horn as a weapon. Indian rhinos have few natural enemies, except for tigers. Tigers sometimes kill unguarded calves, but adult rhinos are less vulnerable due to their huge size.

Males can breed at nine years of age, and females reach sexual maturity at five years and have their first calves between six and eight years of age. The female whistles when in season so that males know when she is ready to mate. The gestation period is about 16 months. Calves are weaned around 18 months. A single calf is born at intervals of about three years. Mother rhinos are attentive and protective, the young staying with the mother for several years. At the birth of a new calf the female will chase off her older offspring.

Indian Rhinoceros