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Hope for the Javan Rhino

By Sharon Gill - 12 Sep 2011 16:20:1 GMT
Hope for the Javan Rhino

Image Credit: This Javan Rhino was suspected of dying from disease transmitted by domestic animals used by farmers to work fields in villages the buffer Ujung Kulon National Park. (© Photo: Business Wire)

The Ujung Kulon National Park has an ambitious goal: to increase the Javan Rhino population by 50% over the next five years.

The Ujung Kulon National Park, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, is home to the world's last remaining fifty Javan Rhinos. However, Head of the Park Agus Priambudi is optimistic that evidence of new rhino births means that these magnificent animals may escape extinction.

In March this year, rare footage of an adult Javan Rhino with its youngster was published by the UK-based NGO Aspinall Foundation. But Priambudi is cautious about the success of the Park's conservation efforts: "Time is not on our side. We have one shot to get it right," he said.

Javan Rhinos, once widespread across Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Peninsula Malaysia, have not only had their habitat degraded by forest encroachment, but they have also been hunted to the verge of extinction by illegal poachers to feed the demand for the animals' horn.

Priambudi is also the program coordinator of the new Javan Rhino Conservation Working Group (CWG), which has just completed the first stage of its five-year work plan - which includes scientific and experimental research to protect and improve rhino habitat as well as helping the Ujung Kulon team to achieve its goals.

According to Aida Greenbury, representative of the CWG's supervisory board, there are several layers of micro-conservation management that are critical to the success of the group-s conservation goals.

In order to better manage, patrol and protect the 122,451-hectare Ujung Kulon National Park, the CWG plans to divide the park into six sectors - or "resorts" - and assign specific teams to identify and address priority issues in each sector, such as clean water management and expansion of feeding areas from invasive species.

Park personnel patrolling the six sectors will be empowered to arrest and prosecute anyone engaged in illegal activities, including hunting rhinos or other protected animals, fishing using prohibited methods, entering rhino habitat without a permit, or illegal logging and burning.

Greenbury also pointed out that the Group's ability to engage local community groups as partners in the conservation effort will be critical to its long-term success. Here, the goal is to empower the community living in buffer areas around the Park by providing economic alternatives that help eliminate the need to encroach into the Javan Rhinos' habitat.

"Over the long term, our goal is to expand habitats and populations outside of Ujung Kulon National Park," said Priambudi. "But before we can do that, we have to make certain that we take care of this last real population of Javan Rhinos and their home here at Ujung Kulon. The work of the conservation partnership is essential to that effort."

Video: Rare Footage of Adult and Juvenile Javan Rhino