Javan rhinoceros

Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Mammalia, Order: Perissodactyla, Family: Rhinocerotidae, Genus: Rhinoceros, Species: R. sondaicus

The Javan Rhinoceros (Sunda Rhinoceros to be more precise) or Lesser One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is a member of the family Rhinocerotidae and one of five extant rhinoceroses. It belongs to the same genus as the Indian Rhinoceros, and has similar mosaicked skin which resembles armor, but at 3.1–3.2 m (10–10.5 feet) in length and 1.4–1.7 m (4.6–5.8 ft) in height, it is smaller than the Indian Rhinoceros, and is closer in size to the Black Rhinoceros. Its horn is usually less than 25 cm (10 inches), smaller than those of the other rhino species.

Once the most widespread of Asian rhinoceroses, the Javan Rhinoceros ranged from the islands of Indonesia, throughout Southeast Asia, and into India and China. The species is now critically endangered, with only two known populations in the wild, and none in zoos. It is possibly the rarest large mammal on earth. A population of as few as 40 live in Ujung Kulon National Park on the island of Java in Indonesia and a small population, estimated in 2007 to be no more than eight, survives in Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam. The decline of the Javan Rhinoceros is attributed to poaching, primarily for their horns, which are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine, fetching as much as $30,000 per kilogram on the black market. Loss of habitat, especially as the result of wars, such as the Vietnam War, in Southeast Asia, has also contributed to the species's decline and hindered recovery. The remaining range is only within two nationally protected areas, but the rhinos are still at risk from poachers, disease and loss of genetic diversity leading to inbreeding depression. None are held in captivity.

The Javan Rhino can live approximately 30–45 years in the wild. It historically inhabited lowland rain forest, wet grasslands and large floodplains. The Javan Rhino is mostly solitary, except for courtship and child-rearing, though groups may occasionally congregate near wallows and salt licks. Aside from humans, adults have no predators in their range. The Javan Rhino usually avoids humans, but will attack when it feels threatened. Scientists and conservationists rarely study the animals directly due to their extreme rarity and the danger of interfering with such an endangered species. Researchers rely on camera traps and fecal samples to gauge health and behavior. Consequently, the Javan Rhino is the least studied of all rhino species. On February 28, 2011, a video was released by WWF and Indonesia's National Park Authority which captured two rhinos with their calves. This motion triggered video proved that these animals are still breeding in the wild.

The main factor in the continued decline of the Javan Rhinoceros population has been poaching for horns, a problem that affects all rhino species. The horns have been a traded commodity in China for over 2,000 years where they are believed to have healing properties in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Historically, its hide was used to make armor for Chinese soldiers and some local tribes in Vietnam believed the hide can be used to make an antidote for snake venom. Because the rhinoceros's range encompasses many areas of poverty, it has been difficult to convince local people not to kill a seemingly useless animal which could be sold for a large sum of money. When the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora first went into effect in 1975, the Javan Rhinoceros was placed under complete Appendix 1 protection: all international trade in the Javan Rhinoceros and products derived from it is illegal. Surveys of the rhinoceros horn black market have determined that Asian rhinoceros horn fetches a price as high as $30,000 per kilogram, three times the value of African rhinoceros horn.

Loss of habitat because of agriculture has also contributed to its decline, though this is no longer as significant a factor because the rhinoceros only lives in two nationally protected parks. Deteriorating habitats have hindered the recovery of rhino populations that fell victim to poaching. Even with all the conservation efforts, the prospects for the Javan Rhinoceros's survival are grim. Because the populations are restricted to two small areas, they are very susceptible to disease and the problems of inbreeding. Conservation geneticists estimate that a population of 100 rhinos would be needed to preserve the genetic diversity of this conservation reliant species.

The Ujung Kulon peninsula was devastated by the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. The Javan Rhinoceros recolonized the peninsula after the explosion, but humans never returned in large numbers, thus creating a haven. In 1931, as the Javan Rhinoceros was on the brink of extinction in Sumatra, the government of the Dutch Indies declared the rhino a legally protected species, which it has remained ever since. In 1967 when a census was first conducted of the rhinos in Ujung Kulon, only 25 animals were recorded. By 1980 that population had doubled, and has remained steady at about 50 ever since. Although the rhinos in Ujung Kulon have no natural predators, they have to compete for scarce resources with wild cattle which may keep the rhino's numbers below the peninsula's carrying capacity. Ujung Kulon is managed by the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry. Evidence of at least four baby rhinos was discovered in 2006, the most ever documented for the species.

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