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Hope for Javan Rhinos

Rare camera trap videos lend silver lining to critically endangered species


Video of Javan rhino with male calf.

Rare footage of two Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus) and two of their calves in the dense tropical rainforests of Ujung Kulon National Park was captured on video recently. The videos prove that Javan rhinos – among the world’s rarest mammals – are breeding in the national park, which is located on the southern-most tip of the Indonesian island of Java. Conservationists are celebrating this momentous event.

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“This is fantastic news because, before these camera trap images surfaced, only twelve other Javan rhino births were recorded in the past decade,” said Adhi Hariyadi, who leads WWF-Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon Program. The footage was captured in November and December 2010 on camera traps installed by WWF Indonesia and Ujung Kulon National Park Authority.

“The population in Ujung Kulon represents the last real hope for the survival of a species that is on the brink of extinction,” adds Hariyadi.

Living on the edge

There are as few as 40 Javan rhinos in the world. They are threatened by poaching, diseases introduced by domestic cattle, their small numbers, and tsunamis or volcanic eruptions that would destroy their last refuge in Ujung Kulon National Park. Another threat is the increasing demand for rhino horns, which are proclaimed to cure cancer and treat fever, rheumatism, gout and other disorders.

Video of Javan rhino with female calf.

Javan rhinos live in a protected area on a peninsula surrounded either by the sea or a growing human population. Domestic cattle inside Ujung Kulon could introduce diseases that may prove fatal to rhinos. Ujung Kulon National Park is highly vulnerable to tsunamis and a major explosion of Anak Krakatau, Indonesian for “Child of Krakatoa”, could easily wipe out all life in the protected area.

High stakes

Despite the challenges, WWF believes that we can make a difference by working with the Ujung Kulon National Park, International Rhino Foundation, Indonesian Rhino Foundation (YABI), Asian Rhino Project, the IUCN/SSC Rhino Specialist Group, the Indonesian government and local communities. Fifty years of conservation experience has taught us that rhinos can be saved.  We’ve done it before—helping rhino populations rebound in Africa and South Asia.

“What Javan rhinos need is protection from poaching and to safeguard their fragile numbers by establishing a second population through translocation,” said Dr. Barney Long, WWF’s Asian species expert. “We don’t have much time to get the work done because there are no Javan rhinos in captivity. If we lose them in the wild then the world will have lost them forever.”