With less than 60 individuals left in the protected area of Ujung Kulon, West Java, Indonesia, this shy, solitary and pre-historic looking animal is in the brink of extinction. What makes this species of rhino different from the other is the presence of only a single horn on its snout and its pre-historic looking skin fold.
I saw a mummy of Javan Rhino (Rinoceros Sondaicus) a few weeks ago when visiting a zoological museum near my hometown. This rhino was so big, and looked so alive. Unfortunately, visitors could not take pictures. Our tour guide explained that this big animal
Javan rhino’s appearance is closely similar to Indian rhino, but is smaller. It has grey color and a single horn. The horn is about 25cm long and smaller in females. Skin folds on its body give it the appearance of armored plates. The weight ranges between 900 – 2,300 kg. The body can be as long as 3m and its height can reach 170 cm. The animal can live until 30-40 years.
Javan rhino’s major habitat is lowland tropical rain forest with plentiful mud wallows and water supply. 400 years ago, Javan rhino was widespread from India to South East Asia including Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Sumatra and Java. Nowadays, it can only be found in Ujung Kulon National Park, Indonesia and a very small number still live in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam.
Javan rhino is extremely shy. It is also a solitary
Increased human population and poaching have pushed Javan Rhino to extinction at alarming rate. Loss of habitat due to logging and agriculture had posed major problem. Various parts of Rhino’s body are highly in demand as constituents of traditional medicine. The horns are used as aphrodisiac or to make knife handles. The horns are found in the black market for about $ 4,000 per kilogram, a lot of money for local villagers.
Long gestation period; with one mature female give birth to only one offspring every four years, made breeding difficult. Slow breeding means that even the death of only one rhino can fasten a spiral downward into extinction.
Efforts need to be made, not only to protect existing rhinos but also to increase their numbers. Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java, one of the world’s natural heritage sites, is the home for around 50 – 60 Javan Rhinos. The Park is guarded by a “Rhino Protection Unit”. However, this park is very close to the Krakatoa, an active volcano in Sunda strait. Should this volcano explodes, it may cause a tsunami, earthquake or bring along diseases that could endangered the species. A proposal had been made to make a second conservation area somewhere in Java island. Second population will surely increase survival chance of Javan Rhino. Hopefully the plan materialized soon, so that our children and children’s children can still see this wonderful animal.