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Asian Gardens Animal Fact Sheet
Rhinoceros unicornisa

Scattered populations in India, Assam and Nepal
The Indian rhinoceros is one of five species of rhinoceros worldwide and one of three that are found in Asia. The other species are the black rhinoceros and the white rhinoceros from Africa and the Javan rhinoceros and the Sumatran rhinoceros from Asia. World rhinoceros populations have been reduced by up to 90% in the past 20 years. For example, the black rhinoceros numbered 500,000 in 1968. In 1985, only 4,000 black rhinoceroses remained. Fewer than 2,000 Indian rhinoceroses remain in the wild, less than 100 in zoos worldwide and only about 30 in North American zoos.

The skin of the Indian rhinoceros is not very thick, but it is supple. It is divided into sections by large folds and has flat bumps that resemble rivets on a ship. The Germans used to call this animal the "Tank Rhinoceros." Frequent wallowing in water or mud helps to keep the skin soft and supple and protects against sunburn, heat and insects.

Although the rhinoceros is primarily solitary, wallows may be community areas shared by small groups in the midday to late afternoon. Territory is marked by urinating in powerful, backward jets. Males in neighboring territories rarely fight, however, strange males entering from elsewhere are viciously attacked. The horn is not used for defense; instead razor sharp, tusk-like incisor teeth are used in battle - a characteristic of the Asian rhinoceroses.

The Indian and the Javan rhinos have a single horn on the end of their muzzles, whereas the two African species and the Sumatran rhinos have two. The horn is composed of keratin (the same protein that forms fingernails and hooves). The horn of the rhinoceros is considered an aphrodisiac and is used for medicinal purposes in some cultures. It is a status symbol in parts of Asia to have a ceremonial dagger handle made from the horn of a rhinoceros.

Hair is located on the ears and at the end of the tail. Three nail-covered toes are on each foot. The eyesight of the rhinoceros is poor, but they have a good sense of hearing and smell. They rely mostly on their sense of smell to obtain knowledge of their surroundings. In fact, the volume of the olfactory passages in their snout exceeds that of the brain. The Indian rhinoceros is a skillful swimmer and diver.

Habitat: Remote, swampy grasslands
Diet: Herbivores: grass, twigs, bamboo shoots, water hyacinths and crops such as rice, corn, mustard, wheat, lentils and potatoes. Known to eat over 180 species of grasses and trees.
Status: Vulnerable (IUCN)
Approximate Dimensions of Adult: Weight: 3300 to 6500 lbs.
Height: 3.7 to 6.7 feet
Horn length: up to 18 inches
Lifespan: 45 years
Reproduction & Offspring: Gestation: 16 months. Offspring: Normally a single offspring is born between February and April, weighing 100 lbs. The male rhinoceros reaches sexual maturity at seven to nine years of age; females at three to five years. Normal rhinoceros breeding behavior is extremely aggressive and violent. Males and females alternately chase and bite each other. A single calf is born and is able to stand within a few hours of birth. The calf weighs approximately 100 pounds (45 kg) at birth and nurses for its first two years. The calf remains with its mother until shortly prior to the birth of her next calf.


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