Rhino Conservation in India

The name ‘rhinoceros comes from two old Greek words put together. The word ‘rhino ‘means nose and ‘ceros ‘means horn. So, a rhinoceros is really just a nose-horn! This makes  sense because the horn is the first thing you notice about a rhino! Want to learn more facts  about rhinos? So some more vast interesting facts about “Rhino” are explained below:  

Facts About Rhinos’ Horns:

The horns on a rhino’s nose look like they are made of thick muscle or bone, but they’re  actually not. Tap your fingernails and see how they feel. A rhino’s horn is made up of the  same material as your fingernail. This is something called keratin, and it also makes your hair  grow. Just like your fingernails and hair grow throughout your life, so does a rhino’s horn.  Some people think that the horn of rhinoceros has healing powers. Because of this, people  have hunted rhinos to get their horns and make a special tea to help with fevers and other  illnesses. This means that now rhinos are endangered.

Rhinoceros’ horns are made from keratin

 Rhinos have been on this planet for a really long time. Rhinoceros are related to woolly  mammoth – these are huge wool covered animals even bigger than elephants that lived  during the ice age a long, long time ago. The species of rhinoceros we know today has been  around for 15 million years – that’s a lot more years than us!  

Indian Rhinoceros: 

Indian rhinoceros, (Rhinoceros unicornis), also called greater one-horned rhinoceros, the  largest of the three Asian rhinoceroses. The Indian rhinoceros weighs between 1,800 and  2,700 kg (4,000 and 6,000 pounds). It stands 2 metres (7 feet) high at the shoulder and is 3.5  metres (11.5 feet) long. The Indian rhinoceros is more or less equivalent in size to the white rhinoceros of Africa and is distinguishable from the Javan rhinoceros by its greater size, the  presence of a large horn, tubercles on its skin, and a different arrangement of skin folds. The  Indian rhinoceros occupies the world’s tallest grasslands, where at the end of the summer  monsoon in October grasses reach 7 metres (23 feet) tall. They are primarily grazers, except  during the winter when they consume a larger proportion of browse. An Indian rhinoceros  female will conceive again quickly if she loses her calf. Tigers kill about 10–20 percent of  calves, but they rarely kill calves older than 1 year, so those Indian rhinoceroses that survive  past that point are invulnerable to nonhuman predators. The Indian rhinoceros fights with its  razor-sharp lower outer incisor teeth, not with its horn. Such teeth, or tusks, can reach 13 cm  (5 inches) in length among dominant males and inflict lethal wounds on other males  competing for access to breeding females. 

Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis).Photos.com/Jupiterimage

The Indian rhinoceros previously occupied an extensive range across northern India and Nepal from Assam state in the east to the Indus River valley in the west. Today this species is  restricted to about 11 reserves in India and Nepal. Nearly 2,600 individuals of breeding age  remain in the wild, and only one population, that of Kaziranga National Park in Assam state,  contains more than 500 individuals. Because this species reaches high densities on dynamic nutrient-rich floodplains, rhinoceros populations recover quickly when these habitats—and  the rhinoceroses themselves—are protected from poaching. In Kaziranga, Indian rhinoceroses  numbered only 12 individuals about 1900, but today over 1,800 are estimated for this reserve.  Similarly, the Chitwan population declined to 60–80 animals in the late 1960s after the  eradication of malaria in the Chitwan Valley, the conversion of natural habitat to rice farming,  and rampant poaching. By 2000 the population had climbed back to more than 600 individuals,  large enough in number to allow the transfer of some individuals to other reserves in Nepal and  India where they had once occurred but had been extirpated. However, roughly 100 animals  were killed by poachers in Royal Chitwan National Park between 2000 and 2003, reducing the  Indian rhinoceros population of the reserve to fewer than 400 animals. By 2014, however, due  to the success of increased anti-poaching efforts, the population increased to more than 500  individuals. 


The Indian rhinoceroses’ dung piles, or middens, are of interest not only as places where scent  is deposited and as communication posts but also as sites for the establishment of plants. Indian  rhinoceroses can deposit as much as 25 kg (55 pounds) in a single defecation, and more than  80 percent of defecations occur on existing latrines rather than as isolated clusters. By  defecating the ingested seeds of fruits from the forest floor, rhinoceroses are important in  helping shade-intolerant trees to colonize open areas. The Indian rhinoceroses’ dung piles  support interesting collections of over 25 species of plants whose seeds are ingested by  rhinoceroses and germinate in the nutrient-rich dung. 

Importance of the Conservation of Greater One-Horned Rhinos

From a mere population of 75 in 1905 to 2700 by 2012, the rhino conservation 

The effort of the Government of India has seen tremendous success over the years. Of all rhino  species, Indian rhinos, also popular as Greater one-horned rhinos, are possibly the most  prehistoric ones. Their skin is like a thick armour plate which reminds of dinosaurs. But, it’s  the one horn that makes them distinctive and special from other rhino species. Unlike the  critically endangered black rhinos, greater one-horned rhinos are counted in the vulnerable  category mainly because of the lower threat of poaching. At present, these beautiful species  can only be found in two places; Kazirang a National Park in Assam, India and Chitwan  National Park in Nepal. 

But the situation has not always been the same. These creatures were once at the stage of  extinction. In 1986 Indian rhinos were given the status of endangered species. Thanks to the  stern policies of the rhino conservation project in India, initiated by the Indian wildlife and the  government, we have seen Indian rhinos repopulated from around 200 in the late 19th  century to over 3000 at present. 

Reasons Behind the Declining Population of  Rhinos

Sport Hunting: In the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was a trend amongst royals for sport  hunting. It was during this period when Greater one-horned rhinos were hunted continuously  and relentlessly. There were several reports that claimed that the Britishers in Assam,  especially military officers, killed more than 200 Indian rhinos out of sport hunting. And as a  result of that, the population of these wild species declined to around 12 in Kaziranga National  Park by the year 1908. 

Poaching: Poaching has always been a threat to wildlife. It is the most important reason for  the decline in the population of Indian rhinos. In the early 20th century, legal hunting was banned  in India by the concerned authorities in order to put conservation measures for wildlife,  especially the rhinos. But despite the effort, poaching was still a major threat for these  creatures. From the year 1980 to 1993, 692 rhinos were killed due to poaching. As a result of  this, the Indian rhino species was on the stage of extension by the mid-1900s. Not just this,  poaching was a major concern even till a few years back. 

In January 2019, an RTI was filled by a Noida based environmentalist regarding rhino  poaching. In response to that, a data report was made public by the Wildlife Crime Control  Bureau (WCCB). It says that since 2008, a total of 102 one-horned rhinos have been poached

In India.As per the report of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), the state Assam, which  has the highest Rhino population, witnessed the maximum number of rhino poaching cases. A  total of 84 rhino deaths were reported due to poaching in Assam since 2008. Whereas, West  Bengal witnessed 17 rhino deaths. Uttar Pradesh also comes on the list with one death. 

    Habitat Loss or Human-Rhino Conflict: With the increasing human population, the needs  of every human being is also increasing. Since a long time, humans are entering in the wildlife  habitat 


In order to have fresh lands. This results in the disappearance of alluvial plain grasslands that  are the necessity of rhinos. Because of the habitat, the territories of rhinos are also declining.  As an outcome of that, they frequently leave their protected area for forage in the nearby  settlements. Numerous cases have been reported of rhinos killing humans or humans killing  rhinos for entering in their settlement.  

Steps Taken Towards Rhino Conservation in India

Since 1986, these wild creatures have been listed as endangered in the list of CITES. However,  in 2008, Indian Rhinos were listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation  of Nature (IUCN) Red List. From the journey of endangered to vulnerable includes various  strict measures and policies that have been imparted by the government in association with the  World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and other non-government organizations that work

towards wildlife conservation. Although there has been a tremendous decline in the number of  poaching cases, the battle is yet not over. 

Indian Rhino Mission 2020: Despite the strict measures and policies, there always remains a  major threat of poaching to Indian rhinos. Back in the year 2005, the Assam government along  with the International Rhino Foundation, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the  Bodoland Territorial Council, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service launched the ‘Indian Rhino  Mission 2020’. This entire mission was basically an effort to attain the rhino population of at  least 3000 in seven protected areas of Assam by the year 2020. Under this initiative, Indian  rhinos are moved by the concerned authorities from the crowded places like Pobitora Wildlife  Sanctuary and Kaziranga National Park to protected areas. The reason for doing so is to provide  ample space to these creatures to breed so they can live long. 

As per the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), from 2005 to 2008, they worked with the  concerned authorities and local communities for the better protection of Indian rhinos. Not just  this, they also kept a record of the existing population. Along with that, patrol roads, guard  posts and bridges were also built during that to ensure smooth monitoring of the rhino  population. 

From 2008, they began translocating the rhinos. By 2012, IRV 2020 successfully translocated  18 greater one-horned rhinos from Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary  to Manas National Park. Apart from this, additional 8 rhinos were also moved to Manas  National Park for wildlife conservation and rehabilitation. Since the translocation took place, a  total of 14 calves were born in Manas. 

As per the data of Indian Rhino Vision 2020 Population Modelling Workshop, November 2014 Final Report, from 2008 to 2012, a total of 18 rhinos were translocated to Manas National Park. Despite this effort, 8 rhinos were hunted by the poachers in 2012 – 2013. Thereafter, the  translocation project was halted and focus was moved on to providing security to rhinos. With  all the efforts and security measures, the park had only one poaching case recorded in 2014  and 2017 (IRV 2020 by International Rhino Foundation) .

Restoring Landscapes: With the rise in rhino popularity, there would be a need for  additional space to breed and live. All the concerned organizations started restoring rhino habitat  not just in India but Nepal as well. For that, habitat corridors were secured so that these  creatures can move to higher areas during flood times.  

Map of Assam showing National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries holding populations of Greater  One-Horned rhinos as of November 2014. Figure based on the map created by the WWF  AREAS Program.


Working with Locals: In India and Nepal, protected areas of greater one-horned rhinos are  engirdled by human settlements. Therefore, it was important for the rhino conservation in India  that the locals residing around the rhino reserve must be sympathetic towards the species. 

Reducing Illegal Trade: Several measures are being taken to stop the illegal trade of rhino  horn by its concerned organization along with TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network.  Intelligence networks and anti-poaching patrols are operating from strategic locations to prevent  illegal trade of rhino horns in the black markets of Asia. 

Monitoring and Census: In every three years, the census of Indian rhinos is done in Kaziranga  National Park. This census is carried out in a visual count form. Along with that, a recording  of mortality is also carried out during this time. 

Reinforcing the Law Enforcement: All the concerned rhino conservation experts along with  the state government aim to strengthen the wildlife laws and their enforcement. They also fund  anti-poaching resources and operations in the protected areas. A debatable measure, Kaziranga  National Park in Assam has implemented a law in which guards or forest rangers can shoot a  poacher in order to save rhinos. 

Positive Outcomes of the Entire Conservation Project

The same RTI which was filled by “Ranjan Tomar” in January 2019 also sought the number  of arrests made in rhino poaching cases in India. In their reply, WCCB stated a total of 209  arrests have been made in rhino poaching cases since 2008.

How You Can Be a Part of the Solution to Conserve Indian Rhinos

As  they say, even a small effort counts! Being a part of society, it’s very important to be aware of the importance of rhino conservation  in India from our part. There are a number of ways that you can follow in order to ensure how  to save Indian rhinos. 

Engage with the Wildlife Conservation Community: One of the most important ways to  support this whole project is following various wildlife conservation communities that work to  conserve greater one-horned rhinos. You can either take out come time to support park rangers  or can donate some amount to the concerned foundation or can also support high-profile  campaigns. Writing letters to policymakers to ask them to help to save the Indian rhino species. 

Say No to Animal Products or Illegal Wildlife Parts: The only reason why these innocent  creatures are getting hunted is because of trivial needs. If you really want to conserve wildlife  then you must know this thing that when buying stops, the killing can too. 

Learn More about the Risks to Wildlife: In order to be aware of wildlife conservation, you  need to first learn about it and risks to wildlife. Not many know that the wildlife habitat also  gets affected because of people who visit national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Unaware of  the consequences, we tend to pollute the wildlife environment by leaving our carbon footprints.

About the blogger

Sudipa Basu is pursuing B.Sc. in Botany from University of Calcutta and has the ability to accept the  challenges in various multi-tasking works and fulfill the organizational goals and to  contribute her creativity by climbing the ladder through continuous learning.