26 Javan rhinos killed by poachers

The Environment and Forestry Ministry is gearing up to probe the recent fatalities of 26  Javan rhinos, suspected victims of poaching at Ujung Kulon National Park in Banten. Their primary objective is to ascertain the accurate count of the casualties.

javan rhino dead Dead Javan Rhino | Doc : Balai TNUK

Towards the end of May, Banten Police apprehended 13 individuals allegedly implicated in rhino poaching within the confines of the national park. Subsequent interrogations revealed that the suspects confessed to the slaughter of as many as 26 Javan rhinos, motivated by the lucrative trade of their horns on the clandestine global market.

Read: 15 Javan Rhinos Disapeared

In addition to apprehending the suspects, law enforcement authorities intercepted a consignment of rhino horns intended for sale in China. The Javan rhino, highly sought after for its horn, is a prime target for poachers due to its perceived value in both cosmetic and traditional medicinal practices.

26 javan rhinos killed Javan Rhino and a poacher | Dok: Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry

Collaboratively, a team comprising national park management personnel and Banten Police investigators is diligently working to pinpoint the precise locations where the perpetrators conducted their hunts and concealed the remains of the slaughtered rhinos, based on information gleaned from their testimonies.

Satyawan Pudyatmoko, the ministry’s Director General for Natural Resources and Ecosystem Conservation, emphasized the necessity for thorough investigation to confirm the actual toll of the rhino killings. “We still need to delve deeper and substantiate the reported number by locating the remnants of the poached rhinos,” remarked Pudyatmoko, as cited by tempo.co.

Camera Trap Record

The Javan rhinoceros, an indigenous creature exclusive to Indonesia, finds its sole habitat within the bounds of Ujung Kulon National Park. With an alarming population estimate of merely 80 individuals within the park’s confines, the species has faced extinction elsewhere, with herds that once roamed across northeast India and Southeast Asia having vanished, as reported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

According to records from Ujung Kulon management as of May last year, at least 80 rhinos have been cataloged through diligent surveillance via camera traps and CCTVs scattered across the park.

Read also: Closure of Trekking Routes

Both the Javan rhino and its Sumatran counterpart, similarly classified as critically endangered, benefit from legal protection under Indonesian jurisdiction, listed among the shielded species outlined in a 2018 regulation by the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

Stringent restrictions

Muhammad Ali Imron, WWF Indonesia’s forest and wildlife program director, emphasized the gravity of the reported demise of 26 Javan rhinos, urging authorities to perceive it as an urgent wake-up call for intensified conservation efforts. “This incident demands an emergency response; prioritizing the preservation of the Javan rhino over routine procedures,” Ali asserted on Wednesday.

Ali underscored the imperative of bolstering ranger patrols and surveillance through the utilization of advanced technology, alongside advocating for a heightened campaign against the illicit hunting and poaching of endangered species.

In a bid to fortify protective measures, the environment ministry has augmented surveillance and security measures throughout the national park, aiming to thwart potential hunters and poachers from inflicting further harm upon the Javan rhino population. Stringent restrictions have been imposed, barring entry into the Ujung Kulon peninsula for any purpose, including tourism, with the peninsula recognized as one of the last remaining sanctuaries for the Javan rhino.

Aerial Drones With Thermal Imaging Cameras

Additionally, authorities have escalated patrols across both land and sea within the national park, incorporating the deployment of aerial drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras to detect and deter unauthorized intrusions into the protected area.

However, poaching merely scratches the surface of the challenges confronting the remaining Javan rhinoceros population, as they grapple with additional threats such as potential disease transmission from wild animals within Ujung Kulon and habitat deterioration due to encroachment.

“Their habitat also faces peril from natural disasters, given Ujung Kulon’s location within a seismic and tsunami-prone zone, adjacent to Mount Krakatau,” noted Satyawan.

In late 2018, an eruption of Krakatau triggered a tsunami that swept through parts of Ujung Kulon, resulting in the tragic loss of at least two park officials and extensive damage to park facilities and vessels. While no rhinos perished in the catastrophe according to Ujung Kulon management, observers like Ali from WWF Indonesia emphasized the pressing need to establish a secondary habitat for the rhinos, providing them with greater distance from potential harm.

The stepped-up patrols have begun to yield results, with joint security forces apprehending individuals implicated in rhino poaching.

Beyond the recent capture of 13 suspects, authorities had detained a local poacher last year. In subsequent court testimony, the poacher revealed involvement in a poaching syndicate responsible for the deaths of at least seven Javan rhinos since 2019, their horns traded illicitly.