Conservationists have released footage and photographs of the world’s rarest rhino, which counts fewer than 70 members among its population and is confined to a single national park in Indonesia.
While camera-trap images of the Javan rhino have occasionally surfaced, a WWF spokesperson says the photographs released Monday are only the third manually captured set ever published. They offer a rare glimpse of the critically endangered mammal wallowing in near-dusk light.
“Very few people have seen a Javan rhino in the wild,” says photographer Robin Moore, who snapped the images with a team from Global Wildlife Conservation and WWF-Indonesia last October. “Even some of the people who have been working on their conservation for decades have never seen one,” he says.
Moore hopes his photographs will call attention to the plight of the Javan rhino. Once widespread across Asia, the species was pared down to just 68 individuals by poaching and the destruction of lowland habitats. All of the remaining animals inhabit Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park. In 2010, conservationists in Vietnam discovered skeletal remains of the country’s last known specimen…with its horn removed.
Vietnam is currently considered to have the world’s greatest demand for rhino horn, which is viewed as a status symbol and also used to make traditional medicines and hangover cures. But conservation groups say the market in China is also rapidly growing. Last week, China temporarily reinstated a 25-year ban on the import of rhino and tiger parts, following international outcry over a recent decision to ease restrictions on the trade for medicines.
As solitary creatures that inhabit dense tropical forests, Javan rhinos are far more difficult to find than their savannah-dwelling counterparts. But the rarity of Moore’s footage also underscores humanity’s devastating impact on global wildlife populations, whose numbers have plummeted by 60% since 1970, according to an October WWF report.
Here Are 10 Facts About The Javan Rhino:
1. All 67 Javan rhinos have names – one of them is called Rawing!
2. They’re heavy animals, weighing up to 2.3 tonnes.
3. They live to around 30-45 years in the wild.
4. They’re herbivorous, only eating plants.
5. They’re solitary animals, except for mating pairs and mothers with young.
6. They’re the second largest animal in Indonesia after the Asian elephant.
7. Male Javan rhinos mark their territories with dung piles and by spraying urine.
8. Scrapes made by their feet in the ground and twisted saplings seem to be used for communication.
9. The cause of their population decline has mainly been caused by poaching due to excessive demand for rhino horn and medicine. Poaching ultimately wiped out the species in Vietnam.
10. Their food source in Ujung Kulon National Park is being taken over by out-of-control the invasive Arenga palm, but WWF-Australia is currently working to change that.