Indian Rhinoceros: Habitat, Facts & Conservation

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

The Indian rhinoceros is a unique and fascinating animal. In this lesson we'll take a look at its habitat, as well as some interesting facts, and conservation efforts that are underway.

One-Horned Rhino

Animals can be named for many different things. Some are named after their geographic range, while others are named for a physical feature. Sometimes a single animal might end up being named after both! A good example of this is the Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis). The name 'Indian rhino' refers to its geographic range. However, it is also called the greater one-horned rhino, which refers to a physical trait. This rhino has only one horn, where many rhino species have two or more. Clearly, how animals are named can vary, even within a single species!

Indian rhinos have only one horn
Indian rhino

Habitat

The majority of the Indian rhino's geographic range is in India, as the name implies. Specifically, it is found in northern India, near the Himalayan mountain range. The Indian rhino is also found in southern Nepal, along the Himalayas where Nepal borders India. In the past, this species had a much wider territory, but as their numbers have dwindled, they are more restricted, and are now mostly found along the India-Nepal border.

Indian rhinos often live in flood plains, which are areas near rivers that flood in the rainy season. The soil in these areas is rich and grows a lot of vegetation, which is perfect for the grass-eating rhinoceros. In addition, these rhinos sometimes live in the forests and swamps near flood plains, or in other grassland areas.

The part of the world where this species lives is surrounded by humans, so rhinos sometimes find themselves living in human-made fields or forests. For the most part they are a solitary species, and live alone except for a mother with her baby.

Physical Traits

In general, rhinoceroses are very large animals. Adult male Indian rhinos can grow up to five feet and eight inches in height, and weigh more than 5,500 pounds! They are gray and wrinkly all over, and their skin folds in places so it looks like they are wearing plates of armor.

Indian rhinos, like other rhino species, have terrible eyesight. However, their excellent hearing and sense of smell helps make up for that. In addition, their upper lip is prehensile, which means they can use it to grip things. This helps them grab and pull up grass, or pull leaves off of shrubs and trees.

Other Interesting Facts

One interesting thing about Indian rhinos is that they can swim very well. In fact, they are the best swimmers among all the rhino species. They can also run up to 34 miles per hour, though they can't stay at this speed for very long. One more interesting thing is that the males do not have strict territorial boundaries. They have a general range that they stay within, but this range often overlaps with the ranges of other males.

Indian rhinos are the best swimmers among the rhino species
Indian rhino swimming

Conservation

Unfortunately, back in the early 1900s Indian rhinos suffered a severe drop in numbers. They were hunted for their horn, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for many different ailments. In addition, much of their habitat was destroyed. The fertile soil in their flood plains made the plains a good place for farms, so the rhinoceroses' habitat was converted, leaving the rhinos with nowhere to go. At one point, there were less than 200 left in the wild.

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