Indonesia: Hopes for endangered animals revive as 25 born in one year

Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 10 Jun 16;

The government’s effort to save species from extinction has received a boost after 25 females of endangered fauna species gave birth in Indonesia in one year, raising hopes for their future survival. The 25 protected animals were born in seven conservation institutions.

At the Indonesia Safari Park in Cisarua, Bogor, West Java for instance, one anoa, one Sumatran elephant, one Javan leopard, one pig-deer, two giraffes and three Sumatran tigers were born. Meanwhile, a Sumatran tiger gave birth to two male cubs at the Kinantan Cultural and Wildlife Park (TMBK) in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra. Two infant clouded leopards were also born in the park.

Furthermore, seven Javan rhinos, the world’s rarest rhinoceros, were born in Ujung Kulon park, the largest number of Javan rhinos born in a single year in the country.

The birth of seven Javan rhino calves is remarkable seeing how the government only aimed for a 5 percent increase in the endangered animal’s population in its five-year National Mid-Term Development Plan (RPJMN).

“If there are already seven Javan rhino calves born, we have achieved the five-year target already because there were only 57 Javan rhinos in Indonesia,” Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said on the sidelines of an event commemorating World Environment Day at the Jakarta Convention Center on Thursday.

The government has set such an unambitious target because it realizes that breeding and protecting endangered animals is not easy.

Poaching and human encroachment have led to a dramatic population decline of endangered animals. For instance, Javan rhinos are solitary animals and it is hard for them to meet and mate.

Another critically endangered rhino species, the Sumatran rhinoceros, is also facing extinction with a population of less than 100.

“Actually, the more worrying one is the Sumatran rhino. In the past, they were spread from Myanmar to the Philippines, but they’re all gone now. There are only three Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia, which are infertile because they have ovarian cancer. The rest are in Indonesia,” said Tachrir Fathoni, the director general of natural resources and ecosystem conservation at the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

While Sumatran rhinos are facing extinction, the government estimates that there could be as many as 25 of them living in Kalimantan, four decades after scientists believed that they had become extinct there.

Recent monitoring efforts carried out by World Wildlife Fund Indonesia and the local administration have detected at least 15 more Sumatran rhinos in West Kutai forest.

The sightings prompted conservationists and the West Kutai regency administration to establish a rhinoceros sanctuary on a 200-hectare plot of land in the Kelian Lestari protected forest, a former gold mining concession area of PT Kelian Equatorial Mining (KEM).

The new sanctuary is much larger than the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in the Way Kambas National Park in Lampung, where one Sumatran rhino was born last year.

The establishment of sanctuaries is believed to be a crucial part of saving endangered rhinos as they provide habitat for them and reduce the chances of animal-human conflicts.

The birth of the seven Javan rhino calves, for instance, is attributed to the establishment of a sanctuary within the Ujung Kulon park that encompasses 5,100 hectares of lush rainforest and freshwater streams.

Based on its success, the government plans to make another sanctuary for Javan rhinos in the Cikepuh sanctuary in Sukabumi, West Java.

“We are worried if Javan rhinos are concentrated in one area, as all of them would die if there’s an outbreak of disease. We have to look for a second habitat and have found that Cikepuh looks promising because food is abundant and the environment is suitable,” Tachrir said.

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