Indonesia: Birth of calves brings hope to Javan rhino

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 22 Mar 16;

Seven Javan rhino calves were born at Ujung Kulon park last year, the largest number of Javan rhinos born in a single year in the country, raising hopes for the future of the world’s rarest rhino after years of population decline.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said that the discovery of the calves was uplifting, given the country’s efforts to increase the rhino population.

“Actually, we thought that the Javan rhino would become extinct but apparently there were [calves being born]. How can we not be happy? We will ask President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo to give names to the four calves while the other three will be named by the [local] regent,” she told a press conference on Monday.

The Javan rhino, whose folds of loose skin give it the appearance of wearing armor plating, once numbered in the thousands and roamed across Southeast Asia.

Poaching and human encroachment on its habitat have led to a dramatic population decline, as with other rhino species around the world, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had said the Javan rhino is “making its last stand”.

Poaching in particular represents a severe threat, with rhino horns fetching high prices on the black market for use in traditional Asian medicine.

The IUCN classifies the Javan rhino as “critically endangered”.

Ujung Kulon park chief Mohammad Haryono said that the discovery of the calves brought the Javan rhino population to 63, all of which live in Ujung Kulon.

“Never before have so many Javan rhino calves been born in a single year. In the past, it was always fewer than five calves,” he told The Jakarta Post. “The newborn calves look healthy judging from their bodies, which are not skinny.”

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Ujung Kulon project leader Yuyun Kurniawan shared the sentiment, saying that the birth of the seven calves was significant.

“If you compare it with the existing population of Javan rhinos, then the seven calves are very significant. The government itself targeted a 10 percent increase in the population [of 25 endangered animals] by 2019, but in a short span of time, there could be a significant increase in Javan rhinos,” he told the Post.

Yuyun said that the birth of the Javan rhino calves was also astounding, considering that the species are solitary animals and thus it was harder for a Javan rhino male and a female to mate.

“They’re not as territorial as tigers but they are indeed solitary animals,” he said.

Haryono attributed the increasing population of Javan rhinos to the establishment of the sanctuary within the park, encompassing 5,100 hectares of lush rainforest and freshwater streams.

“In the eastern part of Ujung Kulon peninsula, there’s a sanctuary that wasn’t inhabited by rhinos in the past. It was damaged but was rehabilitated. We got rid of encroachers and invasive plants there,” he said.

The animals had previously been living mainly in one corner of the park, an area of stunning natural beauty, but the sanctuary expanded the area suitable for them and relocated farmers to reduce the chances of animal-human conflict, according to Haryono.

As the sanctuary grew more habitable for the rhinos, their reproduction also intensified, he added.

Besides Javan rhinos, the government is also trying to save Sumatran rhinos, which are also on the brink of extinction due to illegal hunting for their horns.

Unlike the single-horned Javan rhinoceros, the Sumatran rhinoceros has two horns, with the bigger one able to grow to 79 centimeters and the smaller one can reach 10 cm.

On March 12, a Sumatran rhino was captured by a pit trap in a production forest in West Kutai, East Kalimantan. It was first detected there in early 2013, the first confirmed report of the species’s existence in Kalimantan in the previous 43 years.

“There used to be around 200 Sumatran rhinos in Sumatra but now there are only around 100. So the discovery of even one Sumatran rhino is very scientifically important,” WWF Indonesia CEO Efransjah said.

No comments:

Post a Comment