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Jakarta Post

Javan Rhinos, on the verge of extinction

Wed, September 27, 2017   /   10:38 am
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    Immortalized: A Javan rhino statue stands tall in front of the Ujung Kulon National Park in Pandeglang, Banten. JP/Dhoni Setiawan

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    Quietly tracking: A member of the Rhino Monitoting Unit (RMU) looks for foot prints of the Javan rhinoceros in an area known as the center of the species' habitat near Cigenter River in a protected forest area. JP/Dhoni Setiawan

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    Evidence:The skeleton of a Javan rhino named Sultan is a welcoming icon at Ujung Kulon National Park.JP/Dhoni Setiawan

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    Fresh trace: A member of the monitoring unit measures the footprint of a Javan rhino, estimated to have passed through the area less than 24 hours ago. JP/Dhoni Setiawan

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    Observation tool: A member of the monitoring unit installs a video trap to record the presence of the endangered Javan rhinos. JP/Dhoni Setiawan

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    As the sun goes down: Dusk at Ujung Kulon National Park (TNUK) in Pandeglang regency, Banten. JP/Dhoni Setiawan

The Javan rhinoceros is one of the rarest animals in the world. It is categorized as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and included in Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), because of its very small numbers in the wild.

Loss of habitat is the most serious threat to the survival of the animal, along with decreasing sources of food and hunting. Javan rhinos are now only left roaming Ujung Kulon National Park (TNUK) in Pandeglang regency, Banten.

The total number of Javan rhinos in the 120,000-hectare TNUK area is currently estimated to be about 67. However, the number remains an approximation. There are limitations to making an exact inventory of their population because ofthe animal’s solitary nature and wide distribution across the park.

Officers take turns conducting safeguarding and monitoring activities for 24-hour periods in order to control and protect the animal that is now on the verge of extinction. The TNUK Center at present has 4 teams as part of its Rhino Protection Unit (RPU) and 5 teams as part of its Rhino Monitoring Unit (RMU). Each team consists of 5 officers.

The RPU is tasked with taking actions against wildlife hunting and other illegal activities as hunters seek horns,hoofs and other body parts of the rhinos.

Meanwhile, the RMU is in charge of recording encounters with Javan rhinos as well as traces of their presence, such as footprints, excrement, wallowing places, urine or food leftovers, as well as those of other animal species, complete with their coordinate points.

Today, the TNUK Center has installed around 100 video traps at various Javan rhino concentration points. The number will increase to 200 video traps on World Rhino Day, which falls on Sept. 22.

The government and several environmental organizations continue to carry out appropriate rescue efforts to preserve and grow the population of this rare species while imparting knowledge and stirring public concern for the critically endangered rhinos in Ujung Kulon.

It should never be the case that coming generations of Indonesians are only able to view the skeletons of Javan rhinos in a museum or gaze at a statue of the iconic animal somewhere in a city.