Hunters continue to be a threat to the critically endangered Javan Rhino. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
With only an estimated 50 individuals left in the wild, the Javan rhino is the most endangered mammal in the world. To make matters worse, the small population is highly localized, with most living in a small nation park in Indonesia.
Now, the discovery of three dead rhinos has launched a new effort to preserve this fragile species.The elusive rhinoceros species is pressured by a variety of threats. Most significant are extensive habitat loss and poaching—the rhino's horn is highly valued on the traditional medicine market. Competition from other species and an ongoing drought—which has dried water sources and depleted grasses essential for their diet—have also become major challenges.
Moreover, the small and highly-localized nature of the population places it at risk from natural disasters—like volcanoes and tsunamis—which were responsible for nearly wiping out the entire population in 1883.
Recently, two skeletons were found in Ujung Kulon National Park, the rhinos' primary home, and a third was found in Vietnam. While investigators believe the first two rhinos died due to natural causes, the third—found with a gunshot wound and missing horn—was clearly a victim of poaching.
Adhi Rachmat Haryadi, a WWF-Indonesia official stationed at the park, commented:
When you are talking about populations as small as this, even one death is significant.
In response, conservationists have begun immediate construction of a seven-mile-long electric fence that will create a new protected area alongside the park. In addition, officials are considering a relocation program—typically viewed as a drastic measure by conservationists—to help distribute the population.
In spite of these recent disappointments, conservationists point out that recent efforts have been successful in at least stabilizing the small population. In the 1960s, only about 20 rhinos remained in Ujung Kulon National Park. The population rebounded to about 50 by the 1990s and has remained about the same ever since.
Much more work needs to be done, however, to ensure the survival of the species—which by some estimates could be extinct within 10 years.
Read more about rhinoceros:
Ultra-Rare, Perhaps the Last Remaining, Javan Rhino Found Killed in Vietnam
Single Rhino Male Seeks Mate to Save Species, NSA
Rare Black Rhinos Return Home After 46 Years
Rhino Horn Now Worth More Than Gold - And You Wonder Why Poaching Continues...