Jan 5

Camera traps have successfully captured footage of 35 Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon National Park, Java, providing new evidence of this species’ sole surviving population.

Photo of Javan rhinoceros feeding

Evidence of breeding

The images from the cameras included five calves, giving encouraging confirmation that the rhinos in the park are breeding. However, they also showed that around 60% of the rhinos are male, raising concerns over an imbalance in the sex ratio of the tiny population, which could lead to increased fighting between rival males. Four of the five calves recorded were also male.

Photo of Indonesian Javan rhinoceros wading in water

According to Yanto Santosa, a Javan rhino expert from Bogor Institute of Agriculture, the camera footage gives more accurate estimates of rhino numbers than previous methods that involved counting rhino footprints.

Last stand against extinction

Previously widespread across Southeast Asia, the Javan rhinoceros population has been decimated by habitat loss and by hunting for its horns, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Photo of Javan rhinoceros in shallows of river

Until recently, this Critically Endangered species was confined to Java in Indonesia, and to a single national park in Vietnam. However, late last year it was announced that the Vietnamese subspecies, Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus, had become extinct, leaving the single Javan population as the species’ last stand against extinction.

Precarious future

Although the total number of rhinos in the park is likely to be higher than the 35 recorded on camera, the total population of this highly endangered species is not thought to exceed 60 individuals. As the entire population occurs in one park, it is also at high risk of being wiped out by a single natural disaster or outbreak of disease.

Photo of a pair of Indonesian Javan rhinoceros

With no Javan rhinos occurring in captivity, the preservation of the last remaining population in Ujung Kulon National Park is vital for the survival of the species.

To this end, a dedicated rhino breeding sanctuary is being set up within the park to help Indonesia reach its goal of increasing the population of this rare rhino to between 70 and 80 individuals by 2015.

Read more on this story at Mongabay – Camera traps snap 35 Javan rhinos, including calves.

Read more and watch footage from the camera traps at The Telegraph – Hidden cameras film rare Javan rhinos in Indonesia.

View photos and videos of the Javan rhinoceros on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author