The Indian One Horned Rhinoceros species is the Pride of Kaziranga National Park and the State of Assam in India. Enlisted as an endangered species in the IUCN Red list, there are a total of about 3000 Rhinoceros alive in the World out of which 2000 are present in the Kaziranga National Park alone. The Kaziranga National Park has the highest Population of Indian One Horned Rhinoceros anywhere in the World! Kaziranga is considered as the last stronghold of the Rhino species in the World.
Apart from Kaziranga National Park, this species is distributed along the stretch of the Indo-Gangetic plain and in the Terai Reserve in Nepal. In Assam, their population can also be found at the Manas National Park, the Orang National Park and the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.
More than a meter wide, 180 cm. at the shoulder and weighing as much as two (2) tonnes the Rhinoceros species is a primary attraction at the Kaziranga National Park drawing ovr 50,000 visitors to the park every year. In size, the fully grown males of Kaziranga National Park are larger than females in the wild, weighing from 2,200 to 3,000 kg. Female Indian rhinos weigh about 1,600 kg. The Indian Rhinoceros has a single horn which is made of pure keratin and is naturally black in color. Another distinctive characteristic of the Indian Rhino of Kaziranga National Park is its thick, silver-brown skin which becomes pinkish near the large skin folds that cover its body. Males develop thick neck-folds. 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.
Diet and Behaviour:
The diet of the Indian rhinoceros consists almost entirely of grasses which is available in abundant at Kaziranga National Park. Grass is the Rhino’s favorite food and the Rhinoceros consumes prodigious quantities of plant matter to support its bulk. At times, they also eat leaves, branches of shrubs and trees, fruits, and submerged and floating aquatic plants. Feeding mostly during 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. Nevertheless the Rhino at Kaziranga National Park is a delicate feeder. A favorite food is a short but nourishing grass ‘lokosa’, which grows in low-lying areas and the perennial ox-bow ‘beels’. Not surprisingly, the highest density of rhinos exist in the southwestern range of the Kaziranga National Park where short grass meadows are most extensive. Kaziranga’s Rhinos also feed on the longer grasses when they are tender. A creature of habitat, the Rhino species at Kaziranga usually follows well-frequented walking tracks or ‘dandis’ from its wallows to favored feeding grounds. When such ‘dandis’ pass through tall grasslands, the animal’s body creates a sort of tunnel that it and other animals may use for extended periods. The Indian Rhinoceros drink for a minute or two at a time, often imbibing water filled with rhinoceros urine.
As far as their behavior is concerned, the Indian Rhinos are mostly solitary creatures. These rhinos live in tall grasslands and riverine forests but due to habitat loss they have been forced into more cultivated land. 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. The Indian Rhinoceros species are very good swimmers.
Poaching and their Conservation:
With the rapid development of the places across India conflict between man and animals in the wild have become a common occurrence. People without having much information about the threats of an animal tend to cause harm to it fearing for their own life. This has also impacted many of the National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries in India with Kaziranga National Park being no exception. Regular farming across the lands adjacent to Kaziranga make encounter between humans and animals a regular occurance. Also, illegal grazing, floods and erosion aggravated by human landscape intervention are few of the problems that hurt the population of wildlife at Kaziranga National Park. Still the beauty of Kaziranga National Park remains one of the most vital wildernesses which attracts over 50,000 visitors to the National Park every year.
Kaziranga National Park becomes accessible to poaches because of the wide natural boundary of the River Brahmaputra in the north. With lack of adequate manpower, poachers across the Kaziranga National Park through the northern banks mostly. Poachers to the Kaziranga National Park hunt for ivory, skins, tiger bones and the most prized Rhino horn. Although, there are several anti-poaching camps set up the poachers still find a way to access the vast forest reserves of Kaziranga and get successful in capturing the Rhino horn which make the population of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros at Kaziranga National Park.
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. The Horn of the Indian Rhinoceros at Kaziranga National Park doesn’t contain a core of bone and is instead a closely matted mass of keratin fibers. Though the horn can be easily removed, poachers still hack through the bone of the Rhinoceros at Kaziranga. On an average, the Kaziranga Rhino horn will be around 20 cm. long and weighs 720 gm. The human obsession with the rhino horn has become a death warrant for the species. The horn has been traditionally used in Chinese medicines and is falsely reputed to cure ailments like high fever, food poisoning, headaches and numerous other ailments including improvement of male libido. In earlier days, the royals drank from the cups crafted from Rhino horns as they believed it could detect poisons. Many people still fall for such beliefs that has created a marker for trade for these precious horns. Although International Trade involving Rhino horn has been banned, a black market continues to thrive.
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. Lack of adequate manpower to protect the boundaries of the wide area of the Kaziranga National Park has been the prime reason for the vulnerability. However, the local government’s ensures to put in adequate efforts every year to protect these species. A network of several strategically located anti-poaching camps have been established which in tandem with foot patrols and intelligence gathering is improving the protection steps towards the conservation of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros species at the Kaziranga National Park.
Rhinoceros unicornis has been 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 non-governmental 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.
So why wait?! Plan your visit to spot the Pride of Assam ~ the Majestic One Horned Rhinoceros at the Kaziranga National Park, the State of Assam, Incredible India!
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