By Amelia Meyer
The scientific name of the Indian Rhinoceros is Rhinoceros unicornis in reference to the single horn that it possesses on its snout. This is also the reason that it is known as the Asian One-Horned Rhino.
This horn, measuring an average of 25 centimetres in length, is made from keratin;the same material from which human hair and fingernails are made.
The horn is not physically attached to the skull, which means that, once trimmed, it can grow back. Trimming these horns is one of the key ways that Indian Rhinos are being protected from poachers.
The Indian Rhinoceros, like its other rhino relatives, are being poached because of the value of its horn, which is used in Eastern medicine as well as in the ornamental handles of certain weapons. One horn can fetch tens of thousands of American dollars on the black market.
Today, there are only about 3 000 Indian Rhinos left in the wild. Two-thirds of these live in Assam, India, while the others can be found in north-east India and at the Himalayan foothills of Terai (Nepal).
The Indian Rhino is a herbivore, meaning that it survives solely on vegetation. although grazing makes up a large proportion of its diet, it will also indulge in fruit, leaves and twigs, when available.
For this, it has a slightly hooked upper lip, which enables it to grasp and pull at plant matter. It does most of its eating during the cool hours of the mornings and evenings.
The hide of the Indian Rhino is characterised by a very thick brown skin with soft, pink folds separating these ‘plates’. Males have particularly deep folds around their necks. These folds facilitate easier movement, since they allow the otherwise sturdy plates to have some flexibility. There are hundreds of little wart-like structures all over the body.
The Indian Rhino is not a particularly social creature, and is likely to live and travel alone until it needs to mate. Breeding pairs may stick together for some time, but soon part ways to pursue their independent lives again. Still, they communicate well, and boast approximately 20 different vocalisations in their repertoire. although they prefer to live solitary lives, they are still friendly with one another if and when they meet up in the wild.
Indian Rhinos are agile, and are very good swimmers. When on land, they can achieve speeds of about 55 kilometres per hour for short bursts. Being good swimmers means that these rhinos are often found around bodies of water. In these cases, the animal will consume juicy aquatic plants as a major part of its diet.
The average life span of the Indian Rhinoceros is 45 years. A female gives birth to one calf approximately every two years, but this can increase to four or five years in certain cases. This slows down the rate of reproduction considerably. Females reach sexual maturity at about five to seven years old, while males are about 10 years old when they reach this stage.