From a population of barely 75 in 1905, Indian rhinos numbered over 2,700 by 2012, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India), a global wildlife advocacy.
The Indian rhino was moved from its status of endangered (since 1986) to vulnerable in 2008 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This was after a survey in 2007 by the IUCN Asian Rhino Specialist Group, which estimated that there were close to 2,575 one-horned rhinos in the wild, spread across parts of India and Nepal, with India being home to 2,200 rhinos, or over 85 per cent of the population.
Known by the scientific name of Rhinoceros unicornis, these animals are mega-herbivores, part of a small and disappearing group that weigh over 1,000 kilograms and include the elephant and the hippopotamus. These large herbivores are shapers of their landscape and environment, and the rhino may well be a keystone species – known to have a disproportionately large impact on its environment relative to its population – according to research conducted in South Africa’s Kruger National Park in 2014. By eating only certain kinds of grass – and trampling upon dense vegetation – rhinos indirectly affect smaller herbivores in their area, creating a cascade of effects that, in turn, affects other species as well. The Indian rhinoceros is also known to help in seed dispersion, moving large tree seeds from forested areas to grasslands through excreta.