An international partnership is racing against the clock to ensure the survival of the last 48 Javan rhinos on earth by carving out a safe haven in the dense jungles of Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park. The species’ 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.
“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 (IRF). “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.”
Over the next two years, the Javan rhinos’ habitat at the Park will undergo improvements to help protect the species from extinction caused by a single natural disaster or introduced disease. IRF and its partners are creating 9,884 acres (4,000 ha) of expanded habitat for Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon, which should encourage population growth.
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.
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.
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.
To learn more about Operation Javan Rhino, visit http://www.rhinos-irf.org/operation-javan-rhino/.