Javan rhinos in Vietnam driven to complete extinction; few left in Indonesia

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GLAND, SWITZERLAND (BNO NEWS) -- The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) on Tuesday confirmed the Javan rhinoceros have been driven to complete extinction in Vietnam, leaving only a few left alive in Indonesia.

WWF-Vietnam Country Director Tran Thi Minh Hien confirmed that the last Javan rhino in Vietnam is now gone. "It is painful that despite significant investment in the Vietnamese rhino population, conservation efforts failed to save this unique animal," Tran said. "Vietnam has lost part of its natural heritage."


A 2004 survey conducted by Queen's University in Canada found at least two rhinos living in the Cat Tien National Park at the time, and genetic analysis of 22 dung samples collected by a survey team in 2009 and 2010 confirmed that the samples all belonged to a rhinoceros which was found dead in the park in April 2010.

The findings, presented in a new WWF report, also point to poaching as the likely cause of death as the rhino was found with a bullet in its leg and had its horn removed.

Illegal hunting to supply the wildlife trade has reduced many species in Vietnam to small and isolated populations. The tiger, Asian elephant and endemic species like the saola, Tonkin snub-nosed monkey and Siamese crocodile are also on the verge of extinction in Vietnam.

In addition, the WWF said that habitat loss also played a key role in sealing the fate of the rhino in Vietnam, warning that inadequate law enforcement and ineffective management of protected areas, encroachment and infrastructure development occurring within and close to Vietnam's protected areas will only exert additional pressures on the already fragile population of species.

The Javan rhino was thought to be extinct from mainland Asia until 1988 when one was hunted down in the Cat Tien area, leading to the discovery of a small population. A number of organizations were involved in efforts to conserve the remaining Javan rhino population in Cat Tien National Park from the mid-1990s, but ineffective protection by the park ultimately led to its extinction, WWF said.

Javan rhinos are one of the most endangered species in the world. With the complete extinction in Vietnam, only one small group remains in the wild: the 40 to 50 Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon in Indonesia. No zoos have any Javan rhinos in captivity.

In November 2010, a video taken at Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia's Banten Province in west Java showed a mother and its male calf approaching the camera. A month later, a second video showed a female calf accompanied by its mother.

Park authorities had been discouraged by the discovery of three rhino deaths last year, but Ujung Kulon National Park chief Agus Priambudi said the recent videos offer substantial information about their population and prove that they are breeding within the park. According to park officials, at least 14 births have been documented.

Susie Ellis of the International Rhino Foundation underlined that their work in Indonesia is now even more critical. "We must ensure that what happened to the Javan rhinoceros in Vietnam is not repeated in Indonesia a few years down the line," she said.

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