Kaziranga National Park rhino poaching
Officials were unable to retrieve the body of the female for a while because the males continued to hover around it Reuters file photo

Two bull rhinos have reportedly attacked and killed a female after she refused to mate with either of them. The incident took place at the Jaldapara National Park in the state of West Bengal, which is known for its large population of one-horned rhinos.

According to Indileak, the female had lost her calf a few days prior to the incident and was roaming along an area of the park when the two bulls first tried to run her off their territory.

In order to exert their dominance they attempted to force her into mating but she rejected them. According to a senior official of the park, the two males then attacked her.

"The dead rhino, which was a five or six-year-old sub-adult, had suffered injuries as dominant male rhinos overpowered her for mating," the official related to Hindustan Times. "Rhinos have sharp and strong teeth, and they often attack female if they are denied mating."

A ranger on site reportedly tried to break up the attack by firing his rifle into the air but to no avail. Experts believe the attack had more to do with the female foraging in the territory of the males and these kinds of attacks occur especially during the summer when food is harder to come by. However, most often the weaker animal will escape to safety rather than continue to fight.

The Indian rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) can be found only in certain parts of north India and Nepal. It has become an endangered species due to extensive poaching for its horn, which is used in Chinese and Vietnamese traditional medicine. While the popularity of rhino horn powder dropped in the early 2000s, by 2008 it surged again after rumours spread that the rare powder could cure cancer.

Currently only about 2,000 Indian rhinos are left in the wild.