Gone Forever: Javan Rhino Declared Extinct in Vietnam


EXTINCT: The world’s last Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus was murdered for her small horn.

Photo: © WWF-Greater Mekong
The extinction of the Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) in Vietnam is now confirmed, according to WWF and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF).

A new report released by WWF concludes that Vietnam’s last rhino was a victim of the illegal rhino horn trade.

Poaching was identified as the cause of the extinction of the subspecies; the last individual was shot in the leg, which probably caused its death, and the horn had been removed.

The female rhino’s body was found in Cat Tien National Park on April 29th, 2010. It is estimated that she died in late January or early February.

DNA analyses conducted at Queen’s University, Canada, determined that the dung samples collected during a 2009/2010 WWF survey belonged to one rhino.

Sadly, the samples matched those taken from the dead rhino.

Lack of political will

Vietnam’s tiny rhino population struggled against several formidable obstacles, including the traditional medicine trade, questionable government funding decisions, and habitat loss.

However, it seems the impact of these obstacles could have been lessened, if only the recommended conservation programs had been implemented and supported by the relevant authorities within Vietnam.

The report indicated that there was a glaring lack of political will and very little, if any, accountability for the protection of this critically endangered species.

Demand for traditional ‘medicines’

WWF noted that Vietnam’s “uncontrolled illegal wildlife trade” and “inadequate protection” of habitat led to the extinction of the country’s rhinos.

Vietnam is facing an extinction crisis due to the largely uncontrolled illegal wildlife trade and rampant, ubiquitous poaching of wildlife. Current protected area management practices and conservation interventions have proved inadequate for dealing with this threat. The extinction of the Javan rhinoceros from Vietnam is a direct result of this inadequate protection and protected area management from all parties involved in its conservation.

The “increasing demand for wildlife in the traditional medicine trade in Vietnam, China and other parts of Asia” continues to decimate Southeast Asia’s wildlife populations.

Rhino horn is still a sought-after ingredient for traditional Chinese medicine, despite the fact it has been rigorously analyzed and contains no medicinal properties. Earlier this year, the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and TCM educators spoke out against the continued use of rhino horn.

Indeed, it is the thriving trade in traditional “medicines” made from animal parts which is responsible for killing the world’s last Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus.

Photo: © WWF-Greater Mekong

Habitat loss

It was also revealed that the Vietnamese government focused its funding on “infrastructure development” and demonstrated “insufficient political support” for protecting its critically endangered rhino population.

There was insufficient political support to secure adequate habitat, prevent encroachment, and protect the remaining rhinoceros from hunting. Although Cat Tien National Park is a relatively well funded protected area, as is typical for National Parks in Vietnam a much greater proportion of government funding is spent on activities such as infrastructure development, than on addressing threats to the protected area.

The range of the Javan rhino in Vietnam decreased significantly from 75,000ha in 1988 to just 6,500ha by 2010. Urban development, conversion to agricultural land, park encroachment by settlers, and explosive human population growth proved to be ongoing issues that were never adequately addressed.

Additionally, there was “little or no accountability” within Vietnam’s current protected area management system, which includes rangers, their managers, and protected area managers.

Photo: © WWF-Greater Mekong

‘Conservation failure’

Although once thought to be extinct, Vietnam’s Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus was rediscovered in 1988.

The small population consisted of perhaps a dozen rhinos. Sufficient habitat was available and it was hoped that these rhinos would make a recovery similar to the Southern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) and the greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis ) – both of which were on the brink of extinction 100 years ago.

However, by 2006, probably only three Javan rhinos remained in Vietnam. Despite years of valid recommendations from conservation groups, implementation and accountability were both lacking in Cat Tien National Park.

The extinction of the Javan rhinoceros in Vietnam is a major conservation failure.

Three subspecies of Javan rhino once existed. Rhinoceros sondaicus inermis, which formerly occurred in northeastern India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, is already extinct.

Today, only one subspecies of Javan rhino remains: Fewer than 50 Rhinoceros sondaicus sondaicus are still surviving in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park.

Source: Brook, S., Van Coeverden de Groot, P., Mahood, S. “Extinction of the Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus).” 2011. WWF-Vietnam.

Photos provided by & © WWF-Greater Mekong.

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.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook



  1. A crime against God and man, so sorry for everyone who can not enjoy this animal,and an apology to our grandchildren, what kind of history are we leaving behind.

  2. Marguerite white

    This is disgusting about the javan rhino and seems that poor rhino was all by herself,I cant understand humans why there need for greed for horns that have no medicinal qualities at all still used for it to bluff superstitious beliefs.Why cant they be delighted in the wildlife around them and tourists would be really happy to go on safari to take photographs and footage,I think they just want land and will do anything to rid the world of anyone in there way including animals..What a bleak world this will be if every species is extinct.Humans make me sick who destroy beautiful and loving animals and forests and scenery.Nothing is safe with these type of humans,they are a sub-species and someone should of got rid of these type of humans instead of animals that are just trying to live there lives,I am devastated and sad..

  3. Horrifically sad

  4. So incredibly sad, how can we get the countries to have political will to enforce protections.

  5. I am appalled, I wish for the world to boycott Vietnam. How dare any human being think that they have the right to take and kill and destroy this animal. They are dumb, barbaric and obviously have no understanding of the need for continued species. What will we teach our future generations? These acts that these murderers, so called human beings get people nowhere in the end, but a sad loss for everybody all round. I am disgusted that the government has not put a stop to this they are just as bad as the people that do this repulsive killing. The families growing up will one day ask the Vietnam people what happened and live in a very sad state of mind, showing no care and lack of understanding to growth. It makes me sick to the bone, from begining to end. Slow to act creates sadness and that is the law enforcement over there. What a bunch of idiots!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. tragic, just tragic!

  7. No podems hacer mas con esta especie mas que quizas recurrir a la clonacion o no??

  8. y mantener a estos en areas protegidas!! solo asi!! al igual que a mas especies en peligro de extincion!!

  9. Utterly shocking and tragic… leave these animals alone! – they have a right to exist just as much as we have.

  10. When will humans stop destroying the world, one day it may be us that are hunted to extinction, and our bones put on display, makes me so sad that we are murderers :-(

  11. It horrible….brings to mind the American wolves, bears, big cats…..feel free to add to the list….then condemn others.

  12. My wife is Vietnamese and she is just as saddened and horrified but not surprised. Typical Vietnamese and Chinese belief in superstitious medicine she said, she doesnt beleive in this rubbish but unfortunately many uneducated people in Asian countries still do. I have no shame to suggest the death penalty for any poacher. They are stealing the Earth’s beauty which belongs to our grand children. Lets hope Indonesia gets it right and makes a huge effort to save the remaining Javan Rhinos. And FFS let the world take a fraction of what it spends on military arms and put it towards conservation…its a no brainer!

  13. still waiting for a meteor to strike earth and wipe humans off the planet and let evolution start over again (hopefully do it right this time b/c people suck!!!)