Race against the clock to save critically endangered Javan rhinos08/09/2010 08:52:01 Operation Javan Rhino to help protect species from natural disaster and disease
September 2010. An international partnership is racing against the clock to ensure the survival of the last viable population 48 Javan rhinos by carving out a safe haven in the dense jungles of Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park. This entire viable population, living on the island of Java, is quite literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.
In 1883, Ujung Kulon and the surrounding areas were decimated by the eruption of Krakatau, one of the most violent volcanic events in modern times. Anak Krakatau ("son of Krakatau") remains active in the area causing great concern for conservationists.
Ujuong Kulon to be extended by 4000 hectares
"Having ‘all the eggs in one basket' isn't a good thing for any species," said Dr. Susie Ellis, executive director of the International Rhino Foundation. "With the help of the Rhino Foundation of Indonesia, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Save the Rhino, and the Indonesian government, we have committed to improving the available habitat for Javan rhinos to increase and spread out the population."
As a result, IRF has launched Operation Javan Rhino to help raise the remaining $300,000 needed to complete this effort. Donations will be used to plant rhino food plants, create water sources and wallows, construct guard posts and patrol routes, and hire anti-poaching units to patrol the area. IRF will provide field updates of the on-the-ground efforts taking place in Ujung Kulon to make the new habitat suitable and safe for Javan rhinos.
Javan rhinos are difficult to find in their dense rainforest habitat, even for seasoned experts. Over the past 14 years, Rhino Protection Units have kept track of the rhino population daily, usually by following signs such as dung and footprints. This intense monitoring and protection has essentially eliminated losses from poaching. In collaboration with the Park, WWF Indonesia has set up a number of video-camera traps, which are providing important information about the population.
"We are in the process of expanding intensive management of the Gunung Honje area," said Agus Priambudi, director of Ujung Kulon National Park and active partner in the makeover. "A number of encroachers were moved from within the Park, and we are constructing new guard posts so that the Gunung Honje area is better protected."
No more than 47 Javan rhinos in Java
Rhino poaching is a high-stakes endeavor undertaken by well-organized crime networks that sometimes include corrupt government officials and foreign diplomats.
"Rhinos are killed for the sole intention of selling their horns on the black market," said Cathy Dean, executive director of Save the Rhino. "By funding field projects and through education, our goal is to deliver widespread benefits to the rhinos, their ecosystems and the local communities that benefit from conservation activities."
Rhino experts agree that expanding the usable habitat in Ujung Kulon is the important first step in saving Javan rhinos. The next key step will be translocating animals from Ujung Kulon and establishing a second population elsewhere in Indonesia so that the species can be protected from natural and human-caused disasters, and ultimately extinction.