More Threats for Critically Endangered Javan Rhino

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A recent study has revealed that the critically endangered Javan rhino faces even more threats than previously thought.

Today, only around 50 Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus) remain inside Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park. And, according to the latest study by the Indonesian Rhino Foundation (YABI), now these rhinos can add food shortages, water scarcity, and the effects of climate change to an already overwhelming list of threats facing this isolated population.

Ujung Kulon’s rhino population is currently experiencing a food shortage. A drastic reduction in the rhinos’ food source has been caused by the invasion of Langkap (Arenga Obtusifolia), a palm species. The rhinos feed on lower vegetation, while the tall Langkap blocks the sunlight and impedes the growth of plants below.

Water issues are also projected for the rhinos’ habitat. Widodo Ramono, a senior scientist at the YABI, explained that anticipated climate change issues pose serious water-related problems for the lowland forest-dwelling Javan rhino. Water scarcity in the rhinos’ habitat would dry out the wallows that the rhino depends on for cooling and seeking relief from the sun and insects – and rising sea levels could have additional consequences.

More recent trends in climate change suggest a variation in seasonal rainfall. The water scarcity may restrict the rhinos’ movement … However, the expected sea level rises because of climate change could overwhelm its prime habitat which would threaten the rhinos.

The study was carried out as part of the plan to establish a second habitat for the critically endangered Javan rhino.

(A tiny population of the rare Javan rhino subspecies Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus still survives in Vietnam. The last 3 – 5 of these shy creatures live in Cat Tien National Park, where plans to build a power plant at the edge of their habitat have been approved, pushing this small Javan rhino subspecies even closer to becoming extinct.)

Why is the Javan rhino so rare?

Javan rhino – like all species of rhino – have endured decades of ruthless slaughtering for their horn.

According to traditional Chinese superstition, the rhino’s horn is a cure for common ailments, such as fever. Despite widespread availability of cheap OTC remedies, there seems to be no end in sight for the demand for pricey, prestigious “ancient remedies.”

Tragically, these superstition-based demands are driving wild rhinos to extinction.


More Threats for World’s Rarest Rhino by Rhishja Larson originally published August 26, 2009 on EcoWorldly.

Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, an educational nonprofit organization which provides news and information about wildlife crime and endangered species. I am the Editor of Rhino Horn is Not Medicine and Project Pangolin, author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine, a writer for the environmental news blog Planetsave, the host of Behind the Schemes, and Producer for the upcoming documentary The Price. When I'm not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, I enjoy gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

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