The One Horned Rhino An Endangered Species
The one horned Rhino is a massive herbivore mammal that inhabits tall grass fields, reedy areas and forests. Its large size and tough skin ensure that there is little that can stand in its path. When moving through the forest, it clears the grass and creates a path for the smaller animals. The rhino grazes on soft aquatic vegetation and fruits that fall on the forest floor, particularly the aptly named Rhino apple, a local fruit found in the in the forests of Nepal that forms its favorite diet. The seeds of the fruits that it eats pass out with the Rhino dung, germinate and help in the spread of the forest!
Rhinoceros unicornis is so named because like the mythical Unicorn it has a single horn at the tip of its snout. The horn is the rhino’s most powerful weapon and with it the rhino can puncture the side of a SUV or overturn it. Surprisingly, the horn is made of little else but matted hair. The horn has fascinated humans for centuries. It is believed to have aphrodisiac properties and was also believed to be a potent anti-dote for poisons. Rhinos have often been looked at as magical creatures due to their resemblance to the mythical Unicorn and some people attribute magical properties to the horn.
Rhinos have thick grey hairless skin that covers their body in massive folds. The skin is covered with rivet like bumps. The animal thus appears to be clothed in plates of armor. It has a prominent semi prehensile upper lip. Eyes and ears are small. It has three hoofed toes on all feet. It also has a small tail with hair at its tip. The rhino’s eyesight is poor and it finds its way around the tall grass by marking its path with feces.
The one horned Rhino, a shy and solitary animal, is the most amphibious of all Rhino species. It spends most of the day wallowing in mud or relaxing in cool waters. It feeds during early morning or evening hours.
Rhinos have been ruthlessly hunted for the horn and skin. In the middle ages Rhino skin was used to make shields for warriors. Rhino flesh is also eaten in certain areas of Nepal. Destruction of habitat and conflict with humans have also contributed to their declining numbers.
Rhinos live up to 30-45 years in the wild. A female gives birth to a single calf every 2-4 years. Rhinos once occupied the entire northern plains of India and adjoining areas of Nepal. They thrived along river banks and in the Terai region along the foothills of the Himalayas but are today limited to a few protected areas in India and Nepal. In Kaziranga Sanctuary in India which is one of their largest habitats, many rhinos are killed every year in flash floods. Strong steps are needed to prevent them from becoming creatures of the past.