Extending over 58 hectares from Jember to Banyuwangi districts, Meru Betiri National Park is home to 217 endangered species, including 29 species of mammals and 180 species of birds.
Among them are the Javan oxen and leopard, wild boar, long-tailed macaque, and the Sumatran dhole, in addition to the Javanese flying squirrel, leopard cat, Javan muntjac, and the green peafowl.
However, Meru Betiri NP Chief Pranoto Puroso remarked in Jember that the Park now has a total of 60 Javan wild oxen, or more than the number of some other endangered species.
"As many as 43 Javan wild oxen were recently detected at the Bandealit Resort in Ambulu, Jember, and 17 others were detected at the Sukamade Resort in Sarongan, Banyuangi," Puroso said in Jember Friday.
Meru Betiri Forest area was first designated as a protected forest by the Dutch Colonial Government in 1931, and then in 1972, the Meru Betiri Protected Forest of five hectares was re-designated as a wildlife sanctuary, prioritized for protecting the habitat of the then endangered Javan Tiger, according to him.
In 1982, the sanctuary was expanded to its current extent of 58 hectares, apart from a marine area of 845 hectares, and in the same year the sanctuary was declared a National Park, which was finally designated as such in 1997.
Puroso explained that Meru Betiri National Park is known as the last habitat of the Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) which is now considered extinct, with the last sighting having been recorded in 1976.
In 2012, the officers at the Meru Betiri NP installed five trap cameras to confirm the existence of the Javan tiger.
Efforts to find the Javanese tigers were being stepped up at the national park, the then chairman of the Park, Bambang Darmadja, said at the time.
"Many people believe that Javanese tigers are extinct. So we are trying to prove that the endangered animal still exists at Meru Betiri, by installing trap cameras," he said.
According to a research conducted in 1997, officers found footprints and dung strongly believed to be that of Javanese tigers.
"I am optimistic that Javanese tigers still exist at Meru Betiri, although none of the Park officers have seen the animal personally and the trap cameras that we installed several years ago did not produce any pictures of the nearly extinct wild animal," he said.
Besides the tiger, Javan leopards (Panthera pardus melas) were also found in Meru Betiri, Baluran, Alas Purwo, and Bromo Tengger Semeru, apart from Merapi and Merbabu, Ceremai, Gunung Gede, Ujung Kulon and Gunung Halimun National Parks on Java Island, but their total population remained unknown.
The population of Javan leopards, thought to have migrated from South Asia to Java along a land bridge that bypassed Sumatra and Kalimantan during the Middle Pleistocene, continues to decline.
The population of Javan leopards in the wild was estimated at less than 250 worldwide, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUNC).
However, only about 7-10 Javan leopards remained at the Baluran National Park in Situbondo, Nurdin Razak, a wildlife photographer from Gresik, East Java, stated in Surabaya in 2012.
While roaming through the Baluran National Park one night in February 2012, he got the chance to photograph a Javan leopard, Nurdin said.
"I took the photograph of a Javan leopard on February 18, 2012. It was the first ever picture taken in the last 22 years," Nurdin remarked.
He first encountered the Javanese leopard at dawn on February 18, 2012, which was a Saturday, the academician from Airlangga Universitys school of tourism explained. He later managed to photograph it at night while traveling with a ranger in a car.
The Javan leopard was an endangered species because there were only about 250 of them left worldwide, with only about 7-10 in Baluran National Park, he pointed out.
The leopard whose picture he had taken was 1.8 meters long from head to tail, the wildlife photographer, who has explored 33 national parks in Java and Bali, said.
"I think the animal was about two-and-a-half years old when I spotted it at the Baluran evergreen area, some 4.7 kilometers east of Bekol in Situbondo," Nurdin stated.
Due to population growth, agricultural expansion and uncontrolled poaching, the population of Javan leopards was threatened by loss of habitat, which would eventually lead to their extinction, he noted.
Therefore, an overall effort should be made to protect these animals from extinction, including the enforcement of strict hunting laws, Nurdin said.
Interestingly, the Javan leopard has also become a symbol of friendship between the people of Indonesia and Germany, and Berlins Tierpark is the only zoo which keeps the animal.
On January 16, 2012, two Javan leopard cubs - a male and a female - were born to their mother Shinta and father Wuppi in Tierpark zoo. The local community greeted their birth enthusiastically.