An annual observation of creating awareness about the diversive species of wildlife, World Rhino Day is celebrated every year on the 22nd of September. Initiated in 2010 by the World Wildlife Fund- South Africa and celebrated the first time in 2011, this global event that puts its thrust on recognising the importance of rhinoceros as an integral part of the wildlife ecosystem also is concerned essentially with protecting and conserving this endangered species of mammal across the numerous regions of the world where they occur in their natural habitat. With all the five species of rhinoceros, three Asian and two African namely the Indian rhinoceros, Javan rhinoceros, Sumatran rhinoceros, Black rhinoceros and White rhinoceros in focus, the 2021 theme of the celebrations concentrates upon protecting each one of them with the theme of Keep the Five Alive manifesting this aim. Today on the occasion marking the 10th anniversary of this worldwide observance dedicated exclusively to every rhino on this planet, here’s taking a look at some interesting facts about the rhino species that is our very own, the greater one horned or the Indian rhinoceros-
Unlike African rhinos, the Indian rhinoceros or more commonly known as the greater one horned rhinoceros are excellent swimmers. Crossing therefore bodies of water as large as those of rivers with ease is this particular species of the rhino that in fact enjoys the cool, wet elements of the surrounding lakes and riverine habitats. Whether it be foraging for food underwater or even eating their meal in sufficiently deep wads of waters, the Indian rhinoceros does it all with tremendous ease.
Native to India as its very name suggests, the Indian rhinoceros is famously found romping about in the wild particularly in some specific corners of the eastern part of the country. In particular, it is the north eastern state of Assam that boasts the distinction of housing the beast in a couple of its national parks and wildlife sanctuary with the Kaziranga National Park being world famous as being home to the largest number of its individuals. Of equal prominence is the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary that has the highest density of the species in the world, endowing therefore Assam a status that associates it exclusively with this species marked as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.
Despite however the identity stemming from its name and the Assam connection invariably linked to the Indian rhinoceros, the species is also considerably well manifested in the neighbouring country of Nepal. In fact, the Chitwan National Park of Nepal is documented to have housed the second-largest population of one-horned rhino in the world. With 605 individuals out of the total 645 inhabiting the country, Chitwan trails just the globally renowned greater one horned rhino habitat of Kaziranga, albeit in a measure that is significantly massive as far as individual count is concerned.
The vulnerable status of the Greater One Horned Rhinoceros is almost exclusively attributed to poaching and habitat destruction but a lesser known aspect of its exploitation has been its use for purposes of entertainment historically. The Mughal emperors who ruled over South Asia for a significant period of time in the past used this species of the rhino native to the region in fights against elephants for pure entertainment, resulting therefore in an alarming shrinking of its population before drastic measures to save the species were initiated to bring it back from extinction.
The largest among the three species of the Asian rhino and second in size only to the Asian elephant, the Indian rhinoceros are known to eat on average 1% of their body weight daily, feeding upon a wide variety of seasonal plants and crops, both land grown and aquatic. Also distinctive is their appearance that which manifests in an unique ‘armour-plating’ vision of them as well as the pinkish skin folds that occur due to the rich presence of blood vessels underneath the tissues.
Ecologically important but culturally significant as well, the greater one horned rhinoceros is widely hailed as being the pride of Kaziranga and of Assam as well. Unsurprising it is therefore that the one horned mammal has found expression as an icon of the north east Indian state, endowing it with a distinction that makes it globally significant a repository of wildlife. So intertwined is the Indian rhinoceros with the cultural heritage and identity of Assam that it had also been the mascot of the 33rd National Games held in the city of Guwahati in 2007.