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Assam’s Pride - One Horned Rhino
The Magnificent One Horned Rhinoceros
Assam, one of the eight north-eastern states of India is unique in it’s biodiversity and culture. An amalgamation of rich traditions, culture, diversity and many languages, Assam boasts of it’s own pride - the One Horned Rhinoceros.
The scientific name of the one horned Indian rhino is Rhinoceros unicornis. It is also called as the Great Indian Rhinoceros. The one horned rhino is mainly a grazing animal and expert in swimming but they have comparatively poor eye sight. It has quite good hearing and smelling abilities and can run at a speed of about 40 km/h. It is the largest mammal on land in Asia after the majestic Asian elephant and the largest Asian rhinoceros. After the white rhinoceros, it is the largest rhino in size. These semi aquatic animals weigh around 1600 - 2700 kg and are solitary in nature. They mark their territories through heap of dungs which also serves as trace of communication. It is also said that they communicate with each other through 12 various sounds. Normally a female one horned rhino starts breeding right from the age of 4. They can live up to 45 years.
The Kaziranga National Park in Assam which is a biodiversity hotspot and a UNESCO world heritage site, contains the largest population of one horned rhinoceros in the world. The rhino population is also seen in the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and Orang National Park in Assam apart from Kaziranga. The Pobitora Sanctuary bears the highest density of the great Indian rhinoceros in the world.
The one horned Indian rhinoceros is under threat due to hunting and excessive poaching. In the 19th century, the rhino population in Assam was severely effected by hunting and the government banned hunting of rhinos in 1910. Efforts for conservation of the innocent animals are taken seriously from the 20th century and the outcome shows the population growing to around 2000 as per reports in 2009. However, the rhino population in Assam still faces continuous threat since poachers intrude with advanced weapons and kill the animals either by shooting or by poisoning, through electric shocks or trapping them in artificial pits etc.
As per IUCN Red List, this grayish brown skinned animal is declared as vulnerable. The 8-14 inch horn of the one horned rhinoceros is made up of keratin which is said to be used in the traditional Chinese medicine or to make aphrodisiac medicines. Apart from the horn, the nails and skin of the animal are also poached for their medicinal properties. The horn thus obtained by hurting the animal is reportedly used by some people to decorate their weapons or to use as an ornament. The lucrative price of the horn is the main reason of the destruction and inhumanity continuously shown over the meek animals. The habitat loss due to flood and human activities is another reason for the destruction of their living environment.
The conservation of the one horned rhinoceros is a national issue. The torture on this animal for the body parts only exposes the cruelty of the mankind. Adequate measures are still in need to save this rare mammal which is also the official state animal of Assam.