The unique R. unicornis: Part I

We all know that the Black Rhino Diceros bicornis,  and the White Rhino, Ceratotherium simum, are critically endangered, but there even fewer surviving Greater One-horned Rhino, or Indian Rhino, Rhinoceros unicornis. First made famous in Europe by Dürer in 1551, in a slightly imaginative rendition (he never saw the actual rhino, which was in Lisbon), it is clearly an Indian rhino because of the astonishing thick folded skin, and the single horn.

The_Rhinoceros_(NGA_1964.8.697)_enhanced

Here is the real thing; this one has worn its horn down foraging:

Indian one-horned RhinoBut this one has a fine horn:

Indian one-horned rhino

and so does this one:

DSC00515

From behind, the armour-plate is even more impressive:

Indian one-horned rhino

The neck folds are enough to make aging dowagers feel good by comparison:

Indian one-horned Rhino

This rhino weighs as much as the African White Rhino, 1,800 – 2,500 kg, much more than the African Black Rhino. We visited the two places in the world where almost all the surviving one-horned rhino live. Chitwan in Nepal has about 600, and Kaziranga in Asaam has about 2,413 (70% of the world population of 3500).

The IUCN classifies them as Vulnerable, not Critically Endangered, because the population though fragmented is increasing. The poaching threat is apparently somewhat lower than for the African rhinos, maybe because they only have one horn, and a lot of ones we saw had worn it down? But the proximity to the major markets in China and Vietnam makes it appealing to poachers nonetheless. The anti-poaching efforts are very aggressive, and there is a great deal of concern about whether it is appropriately regulated, and its effects on the local community. Here is a disturbing article, for those who are interested:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-38909512

In Part II, you will meet the next generation of rhino.

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