Friday, March 6, 2009

Javan rhino - World's most endangered large mammal

Javan rhino is probably the world's most endangered large mammal with latest estimates suggesting there is only about 50-60 surviving Javan rhinos. The biggest Javan rhino population lives in Ujung Kulon National Park on the island of Java in Indonesia (somewhere between 40-50 individuals), and the remaining number lives in Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam.

Javan rhino population suffered tremendous decline in the last few decades mostly because of poaching. Javan rhinos are among favorite poaching targets because rhino horn is valued highly for use in Oriental medicine (as a drug to reduce fever), and in Yemen for instance horns are carved to make traditional dagger handles. Horns can achieve as much as $30,000 per kilogram on the black market, and this is the reason why poachers still hunt them down despite being critically endangered and down to only 50-60 individuals. The other reasons for their tremendous decline in population include habitat loss, disease and loss of genetic diversity.

There are only 50-60 Javan rhinos left in the wild. This makes Javan rhino the most endangered large mammal on our planet.

Poaching for horns is main cause for decline in population of all rhino species, not only Javan rhino. Traditional Chinese medicine has history longer than 2000 years, and rhino horns sadly play important role in it as they are believed to have healing properties. When you combine this tradition with the fact that rhino's habitats encompasses many areas of poverty, it is really no surprise that people kill them to earn big money. Sadly, all previous conservation efforts have proved inadequate because of combination of these factors.

So what can be done to save the remaining population? Poverty and lack of ecological education make conservation efforts extremely difficult, and many experts agree that chances for the Javan rhino's survival are very slim. Especially since the remaining population is restricted to only two small areas, making Javan rhinos very susceptible to disease and the problems of inbreeding. Unless we see some drastic change Javan rhinos will soon have their habitats only in history books.

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