Scientific Name: Rhinoceros unicornis
Despite the impression given by various books and movies, Indian rhinos usually don’t use their horns as a weapon. Instead, they use their lower incisors.
The scientific name for the Indian rhinoceros, unicornis, means “one horn” in Latin. Because of its singular horn, the Indian rhino has been associated with the unicorns of legend.
STATUS: Indian rhinos are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). There are about 2,000 Indian rhinos in existence. They currently live in parts of northeastern India and Nepal. Illegal poaching for their horns and habitat destruction are the major threats to their survival. It is these threats that almost brought the species to extinction in the 1900s. Staunch protection by Indian and Nepalese wildlife authorities has been a great asset to their preservation.
HABITAT: The Indian rhino inhabits swamp-like or grassland environments. Most are found in protected areas.
DIET: Indian rhinos browse and graze mostly on various types of grasses, leaves, and aquatic plants and fruits.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISITICS: The Indian rhino is mostly covered in a thick, silver-brown skin characterized by numerous folds. The upper legs and shoulders are covered in bumps that almost appear to be warts. It has very little body hair. The rhino’s horn reaches a length of between 12 and 15 inches and is made of keratin, the same substance as human fingernails. Just as humans clip their fingernails, rhinos rub their horns to shorten their length. Males on average are 6 feet high at the shoulder and about 14 feet long. They weigh about 3,500 pounds.
The Misunderstood Rhino
Although it has been widely believed that rhinos are dangerous and formidable fighters, they usually flee from danger. Male Indian rhinos do fight each other during mating season, although they tend to tolerate other males in their territories in other seasons.