The Rhinos of Nepal exhibit provides a fantastic home for our greater one horned rhinos, highlighting ZSL's conservation work with these “armour-plated” giants.
The £1m development features indoor heated pools so that the rhinos can enjoy their favourite past time – wallowing in muddy water – all year round. A spacious viewing area allows the public to get a close-up view of the rhinos indoors as well as outdoor viewing of them in their paddock.
A walk across to the “maternity wing” takes visitors through the specially-designed watch tower, modelled on those used by conservationists to spot rhino in the field.
Rhinos of Nepal is ZSL’s first fully “green” exhibit. The building utilises recycled and local materials where possible (such as recycled railway sleepers and local sandstone). Making use of natural sunlight, and unique water treatment systems linked to a reed bed system to filter waste water before it drains away.
Many other features, such as rubberised flooring for improved foot care, safe animal confinement for training, and flexible stall spaces within a well-ventilated environment.
Species: Greater one-horned rhinoceros
Latin name: Rhinoceros unicornis
What they look like: The greater one-horned rhinoceros has thick grey skin, changing to pink in the folds and of course a distinctive horn on the end of its nose, as well as small bumps on their shoulders and upper legs.
- The horn is made of keratin.
- It’s the second largest species of rhinoceros, after the white rhino.
- The folds in a greater one-horned rhino’s skin help it to regulate body temperature by increasing the surface area.
What they eat: Grasses, fruit, leaves, shrub and tree branches.
Habitat: The species mainly inhabits grasslands, but has been known to live by swamps and forests.
Where they live: India and Nepal.
Threats: Habitat loss and poaching.
- There are 2500 left in the wild. The overall population has slowly increased from as few as 200 at the beginning of the 20th century.
- The captive population in zoos is now stable and viable as an insurance policy in case of extinctions of the wild populations.
- Greater One-Horned rhino have the most folded skin of the 5 rhino species.
- Instead of using their horn to fight, the males use their long, sharp lower teeth.
- The Moghul emperors used to use the rhino in staged fights against elephant with often the rhinoceros winning the battle. Happily this no longer is practiced.
- They are very good swimmers although many drown each year in the annual floods and they spend up to 60% of the day wallowing.
- They have a folding upper lip that can grasp leaves and twigs but can fold it away to graze on the tall grass of the terrain.
ZSL's conservation work with the greater one-horned rhinoceros
ZSL’s main project in Nepal is currently the conservation of the greater one-horned rhino, which are restricted to small protected areas in north-eastern India and Nepal. Our work has caused the numbers of rhino in Chitwan National Park to increase from a low of 100 animals in the late 1960’s to 544 in 2000. This allowed us to carry out translocations to to the national parks to build up new populations: Bardia national park and Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve.
From poaching and the destruction of grassland, to human-wildlife conflict and invasive weeds - threats to the species and their habitat are vast.
- Poaching – poachers kill rhino for their horns to sell for use in traditional medicines.
- Grassland destruction - Encroaching settlements and farmland, commercial forestry, fragmentation, cattle mismanagement, unsustainable harvesting and burning of the grassland habitat all adds to the destruction of the Rhinos’ habitat.
- Human-wildlife conflict - due to loss of habitat rhinos are increasingly walking on to people’s farmland to eat their crops. Rhinos can be dangerous to humans when startled.
- Invasive weeds - Lantana camara, Mikania macarantha, Water hyacinth. These plants have been unintentionally introduced into the grasslands and are now out-competing the natural plants. Unpalatable to the wildlife and fire resistant they are difficult to destroy.