15 Javan Rhinos Disapeared since 2019 – 18 rhinos had been missing for years, and at least three of them were confirmed to have died since 2019, yet continued to be listed in the official population count.
None of these missing or dead Javan rhinos were publicly announced by either the agency that manages Ujung Kulon National Park or the Indonesian environment ministry.
15 Javan Rhinos Disapeared
This is the first official announcement of a newborn of the critically endangered species after an investigative report published earlier this year threw into doubt the government’s claims of a steadily growing population. In its report, the nonprofit environmental NGO Auriga Nusantara.
The Auriga Nusantara Foundation conducted a study of the Javan rhino population in Ujung Kulon National Park which resulted in 15 individuals disappearing from camera trap monitoring in recent years.
“Fifteen of these individuals are still not recorded until at least 2021 or August 2022,” said Auriga Nusantara Researcher Riszki Is Hardianto in a press conference attended from Jakarta, Tuesday.
Riszki said the number of individuals released by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry was also different from the findings by researchers from Auriga Nusantara.
According to him, the 15 undetected Javan rhinos were not published by the relevant authorities because they were thought to be still alive. This assumption is based on the fact that no signs of death or bones were found.
“In the last four years, even though the camera footage has always been smaller than the 2018 footage, the Ujung Kulon National Park Office or the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has always reported increasing population figures,” he said.
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry said that the Javan rhino population in 2022 will be around 75 individuals, while based on Auriga’s research the number is actually smaller.
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Auriga’s report also highlighted worrying indications that attempted rhino poaching has resumed in Ujung Kulon since 2018, following three decades without reported incidents.
It noted the discovery of a snare positioned specifically to catch a large mammal like a rhino or banteng (Bos javanicus), adding that sightings of people carrying firearms and other illegal activities have also been increasing all over the park.
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Accounts by communities and partner organizations in the Ujung Kulon area have reported seeing poachers entering the coastal park from the sea.
Once ranging throughout Southeast Asia, these rhinos have been hunted to near-extinction, with a single population remaining. Since the 2011 death of the last Javan rhino in Vietnam, the critically endangered species now only exists in the Indonesian park at the western tip of Java Island.
Javan rhinos face several unique threats, such as an unbalanced sex ratio of about two males for every one female. A lack of genetic diversity within the existing population; the potential for disease transmission from cattle herded by nearby communities; and being confined to a single habitat that’s now nearing its carrying capacity for rhinos and is located in an area prone to natural disasters.
In its September press release, the environment ministry said it would beef up the security in Ujung Kulon to tackle poaching threats.
It also said that if natural rates of birth fall off, it would consider using assisted reproductive technology, specifically IVF, with a Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) as a surrogate mother.
The ministry added it would continue to increase its research activities inside the park, including expanding the potential habitable zone inside Ujung Kulon that the rhinos can occupy.
“Let’s together save the Javan rhinos that only exist in Ujung Kulon National Park,” Satyawan said. “Hopefully the Javan rhino calf stays healthy and lives long.”