One-Horned Rhino Team

Project Partners

World Wildlife Fund, Nilanga Jayasinghe

Board Advisor

Brandon Davis


The EWCL Greater One-horned Rhino Team provided tools to support habitat management efforts for greater one-horned (GOH) rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) in Manas National Park, Assam, India. The team produced maps and a technical report that will contribute to the development of a grassland habitat management plan for Manas National Park. The maps characterize the current distribution of grassland and rates of grassland habitat change, wetland habitat change, and invasive species, thereby facilitating better management of the rhino habitat. The group also developed a technical report providing recommendations for best practices in grassland habitat management, drawing on lessons learned from similar habitats around the globe that the Assam Forest Department can utilize. The team presented this work during a virtual workshop with Assam-based stakeholders.

Greater One-horned Rhino

    1. Introduction
      The greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) is currently found in northeast India and Nepal, with the largest concentration of greater one-horned (GOH) rhinos in Assam, India. The greatest threat to rhino populations at this time lies in the degradation of their habitat. Currently, GOH rhino populations are on the rise, from approximately 200 at the turn of the 20th century to approximately 3,700 today, thanks to anti-poaching efforts, translocation, and habitat protection. However, the spread of invasive and exotic plant species, woody succession, and waterhole degradation have had detrimental impacts on rhino habitat. Additionally, human settlement in  buffer zones and around park boundaries are putting additional pressures on the protected areas. Because of this, availability of suitable habitat is declining, and addressing this issue is imperative for the future success of the GOH rhino. This lack of available resources causes competition, often leading to aggression between individual rhinos, rapid spread of disease, or movement out of protected areas. Manas National Park, located in northern Assam, India, along the Bhutan border, is one protected area experiencing such pressures. The EWCL group sought to improve grassland management through the creation of habitat maps and management practice recommendations, via a technical report and workshop.
    2. Develop a habitat management report for grasslands in Manas National Park
      Previous habitat management efforts to control invasive plant species or woody habitat encroachment on grasslands in Manas National Park have been limited by insufficient data, maps, and techniques for removal. Also deficient were recent reports in invasive species control, suggesting the need for information and techniques that have been effective in similar habitats worldwide. We conducted a literature review to identify threats to GOH rhino habitat and existing methods to address those threats. We provided a range of grassland management options to consider in order to address the threats, in addition to research and policy recommendations. A final draft, with stakeholder input from the virtual workshop, is in review with WWF India. 
    3. Map current habitat cover and historical habitat change within Manas National Park
      Understanding the current distribution of grasslands, and where habitat loss is occurring is critical to preserving suitable habitat for the rhino populations in Manas National Park. We used satellite imagery and machine learning approaches to create a map showing the distribution of 12 different habitat types within the park as of 2020. The basic process involved classifying each pixel of a satellite image into one of the 12 habitat types. We acquired medium-resolution satellite imagery (10m2 pixels) from the Sentinel-2 satellite system. The machine learning approaches we used require training data that provide locations of known habitat types. Field work in the park to collect these data was hampered due to the COVID-19 pandemic and unusually strong monsoon flooding, which prevented ground teams from entering the park. Despite these challenges, WWF India provided a training dataset of 313 ground-truth points representing each of the 12 habitat classes.  Using these data, we classified the pixels of images collected within the park using a classification tree approach approach in Google Earth Engine and a deep neural network implemented in Keras. We completed classifications for years 2016 and 2020 to assess habitat change over time and presented these change maps to WWF India. Finally, we acquired high-resolution satellite imagery from the SPOT6/7 satellite missions (1.5m pixel size) and provided these to WWF. WWF India may use the imagery to complete supervised classification in the future to produce even more detailed maps of habitat. The EWCL team strives to submit the mapping methodology and results to a peer-reviewed publication.
    4. Present results of habitat management report, habitat mapping exercise, and associated recommendations to Assam-based stakeholders
      Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, holding an in-person workshop in Assam was not possible. To accommodate travel and gathering restrictions, we presented a virtual workshop live via zoom to Assam-based stakeholders on 02/24/2021. The Assam-based stakeholders included staff from WWF India, Manas National Park, IUCN, Aaranyak, and the Durrell Foundation. Following a presentation of our habitat maps and technical report, we incorporated discussion and suggestions from the stakeholders into the habitat management report.
    1. Management Report 
    2. Maps 
    3. Workshop Presentation


      screenshot of a virtual presentation
      • Letter of Invitation 
      • Agenda 
      • Recording 
      • Workshop Selections
      • Slide deck 
    4. Social Media
    5. T-shirts []
    6. Trivia Night (with Lost Rhino Brewing)


    man in front of a lap top holding a microphone


    golden rhino trophy





    people in a brewery


    trivia night poster

    Social Media

    • Facebook and Instagram pages
      • Facebook @Habitat4OneHorned
        • 49 posts
        • 407 average people reached with each post (highest engagement around t-shirt fundraiser)
      • Instagram @Habitat4OneHorned
        • 16 posts
        • 18 average people reached with each post
    1. Learn more about the Greater One-horned Rhino and the current conservation efforts in India by visiting WWF and WWF India.

    Funds earned (either money or estimated value of in-kind services)

    1. SeaWorld Busch Gardens seed grant ($5250)
    2. Bonfire t-shirt sales (raised $652)
    3. Lost Rhino trivia night (raised $555)
    4. Fundly online donations (raised $140)
    5. In-kind services
      • Coding and map analysis
      • T-shirt artwork from IG @nodicenodice ($200)