Camera traps snap 35 Javan rhinos, including calves

Jeremy Hance
January 04, 2012

Camera traps have successfully taken photos of 35 Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus) in Ujung Kulon National Park. The small population, with an estimated 45 or so individuals, is the species' last stand against extinction. Late last year, a subspecies of the Javan rhino, the Vietnamese rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus), was declared extinct.

The photos provided good news in that five of the rhinos photographer were calves, proving the rhinos were still reproducing effectively. However the photos also highlighted concerns: nearly 60 percent of the rhinos were males, meaning there is likely a sexual imbalance in the tiny population that could prove troublesome. Scientists are concerned that a lack of females could lead to fights between male rivals. In addition, four of the five calves were male.

Given a total population that certainly doesn't exceed 60 individuals and is likely less, Javan rhinos are, not surprisingly, listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. They are imperiled by poaching for their horns and habitat destruction, but perhaps even more dangerous in their case is that all the animals survive in one park, meaning a single natural disaster or disease could wipe them out. No Javan rhinos survive in captivity.

Indonesia has set a goal of increasingly the Javan rhino population to 70-80 individuals by 2015. They are setting up a 38,000 hectare rhino breeding sanctuary inside the park to help facilitate breeding among the species. The sanctuary will cover over 30 percent of Ujung Kulon National Park.

Across Asia and Africa, habitat destruction and poaching have pushed all five of the world's rhino species, at one time or another, into endangerment. Rhinos are killed for their horns which are used in traditional Chinese medicine even though numerous scientific studies have shown the horns have no medicinal value whatsoever. Worldwide, rhino poaching has hit new highs recently, and it is believed a Javan rhino was killed for its horn last year (among one of three found dead).

Today, three of the world's five rhino species—the black, the Javan, and the Sumatran—are listed as Critically Endangered. In addition to the Vietnamese rhino falling to extinction last year, 2011 also marked the official announcement that the western black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) was extinct.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (January 04, 2012).

Camera traps snap 35 Javan rhinos, including calves.