Indonesia prioritizes saving of Javan, Sumatran rhinos

Indonesia prioritizes saving of Javan, Sumatran rhinos

Photo document of Sumatra rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) Andatu and her mother Ratu in SRS Way Kambas National Park, East Lampung, Lampung Province. (ANTARA/Andika Wahyu)

The government has named 13 animal species, including Javan rhinos and Sumatran rhinos, that are protected."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The population of one-horned Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) and two-horned Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is believed to have increased quite encouragingly over the past few years.

Last years video camera monitoring in the Ujung Kulon national park (TNUK) identified 58 individual Javan rhinos, an increase of seven from 51 in 2012, while a Sumatran rhino calf was recently born in the Way Kambas national park through a semi-captive breeding.

The Javan and Sumatran rhinos are two out of only five species of rhinos that have survived globally.

The remaining three species are the Indian rhino, which can be found in Nepal, India and Bhutan; the White rhino, commonly found in Botswana, the Ivory Coast, Congo, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe; and the Black rhino in Cameron, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana.

The Javan rhino had once occurred from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and probably southern China through peninsular Malaya to the Indonesian island of Java. But, beginning in the middle of the 19th century, the species was extirpated from most of its historical range.

Since 2010, two rhino subspecies, the Western Black Rhinoceros

(Diceros bicornis longipes) in Cameroon and the Indochinese Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticu) in Vietnam have also gone extinct.

The Javan rhino now is only found in isolated area in the Ujung Kulon National Park (Pandeglang, Banten Province), at the western-most tip of Java Island.

"Based on the monitoring we did during 2013, we found out that the Javan rhino population is 58, consisting of eight calves and 50 young and adult rhinos," the head of the TNUK office, Muhamad Haryono, said on Feb. 27, 2014.

Of the eight calves, three are female and five male. Of the 50 young and adults, 20 are female and 30 male, he explained.

The monitoring was carried from March to December 2013 by installing 120 video cameras along the strait of the park area, he said.

"During the 10 months of the camera monitoring, we got 16 thousands clips, but only 1,660 clips captured the images of rhinos. Of the number, 1,388 clips had the images of rhinos that could be identified, and 272 others could not be identified," he added.

Last years monitoring showed an increase of seven rhinos, as the monitoring in 2012 managed to identify only 51 individual rhinos, he stated.

The TNUK plans to set up a Rhino Health Unit (RHU) to maintain the health of the Javan rhinos, especially their calves. During 2012-2013, two rhinos were found dead in the park area.

The government of Indonesia is targeting a three percent annual growth rate of the Javan rhino population.

According to WWF, the Javan rhino is probably the rarest among large mammals on the planet, with no more than 50 left in the wild and none in captivity. The Javan rhino is a smaller and lighter relative of the greater one-horned rhino. It stands at 1.4 to 1.7 meter height at the shoulder.

The Sumatran rhino is also critically endangered because of its rapid rate of decline. Being called as the "hairy rhino" because of its hairy body and tufted ears, the Sumatran rhino is the smallest and last form of the two-horned rhino in Asia that has lived on the planet for 20 million years.

It is believed that approximately 100 Sumatran rhinos survive in very small and highly fragmented populations across Indonesia and Sabah, Malaysia.

Because of poaching, the numbers have decreased by more than 50 percent over the last 20 years, according to the International Rhino Foundation.

The forestry ministrys biological diversity conservation director, Bambang W Novianto, however, announced good news that the population of the Sumatran rhino has increased lately thanks to semi-captive breeding in the Way Kambas national park, Lampung, Sumatran Island.

"Recently, a Sumatran rhino calf was born in Way Kambas through a semi-captive breeding," he stated when visiting the TNUK in Pandeglang, on Feb. 27, 2014.

Given the success of the semi-captive breeding of Sumatran rhinos, the Malaysian government has asked for Sumatran rhinos whose numbers are as low as just five in Malaysia, he sad.

"We are not able to meet the request because we cannot be careless in giving up the endangered animal to others," he explained.

In fact, the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia last year agreed to collaborate on saving the Sumatran rhino during the Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit held by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) in Singapore in 2013.

"This could be our last opportunity to save this species and, by working together as a collaborative unit, internationally and regionally, with an agreed vision and goals, a glimmer of hope has been clearly demonstrated," Widodo Ramano, the executive director of the Indonesian Rhino Foundation, said in the meeting.

Meanwhile, Datuk Dr. Laurentius Ambu, the director of the Sabah Wildlife Department was quoted by the press as saying, "We would like to reiterate Sabahs commitment and our willingness to further discuss with Indonesia opportunities to exchange reproductive cells of the species, move individual rhinos between our countries and to employ advanced reproductive technology as a parallel initiative in the Sumatran rhino captive breeding program."

The rhino conservation is a priority program in various countries including in Indonesia. Rhinos have been categorized as critically endangered and are listed in CITES (Trade in Endangered Species) Appendix I.

Indonesian Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan last year stated that Indonesia has prioritized the conservation of rhinos. The ministry has allocated Rp6 trillion (over US$6 billion) for the conservation program of endangered wildlife.

The ministry has also been implementing an Action Plan of Javanese Rhino Conservation until 2017, hoping that it will help increase the Javan rhino population to 70 by 2015.

"The government has named 13 animal species, including Javan rhinos and Sumatran rhinos, that are protected. Saving the rhinos is a priority," Bambang W Novianto stated.

The private sector has been encouraged to participate in the rhino conservation program by establishing a partnership with the Indonesian Rhino Foundation (YABI).

The Indonesian government has designated July 5 as Rhino Day to promote the conservation of the endangered animal. (*)

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