Cameras Catch Young Javan Rhinos, Boosting Hopes for a Comeback

By Andrew Moseman | February 28, 2011 10:20 am

Good news for one of the most endangered mammals on the planet: Cameras set up to track the rare Javan rhino in Indonesia have captured images of young calves, showing the species is still breeding.

“This is fantastic news because before these camera trap images surfaced, only 12 other Javan rhino births were recorded in the past decade,” WWF-Indonesia Ujung Kulon programme chief Adhi Hariyadi said. “The population in Ujung Kulon represents the last real hope for the survival of a species that is on the brink of extinction.” [AFP]

Scientists who track the species had feared that perhaps as few as 40 Javan rhinos remained. This video footage recorded in November and December of last year, as well as other observations, suggests that the population is probably a little larger now, but still only about 50.

Closely related to the Indian rhino, the reclusive species is by far the least numerous kind of rhino, found in dense evergreen forests that had hindered reliable estimates of their numbers and behavior. Demand for rhino horn in traditional Asian medicines has led to increased poaching of rhinos worldwide and increased anxiety about the’ safety of Javan rhinos. [USA Today]

Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia is one of the last holdouts of the rhinos, and so few of these creatures remain that even a natural disaster like an earthquake or volcanic eruption could spell their doom. However, Hariyadi says, this sighting is finally a source of some optimism.

“This female calf documentation is a breath of fresh air for us and Javan rhino conservation in general since (the) majority of calves we identified previously was male. This is good news to ensure that the population is viable.” [CNN]

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