Indonesia: The Javan Rhino Study and Conservation Area
Indonesia’s remote Ujung Kulon National Park holds the worlds’ only viable population of the Critically Endangered Javan rhino. No more than an estimated 61 Javan rhinos remain on the planet.
The rhinos occupy primarily the western half of Ujung Kulon National Park. Although the population is believed to be stable, it has likely reached its carrying capacity in the current habitat and cannot grow without intervention. In addition, limited to only one area, the Javan rhino population is susceptible to catastrophic losses from disease or natural disasters.
For the past 16 years, Rhino Protection Units have kept the Ujung Kulon population safe from poaching. However, protection isn’t enough to save the species from extinction.
The species’ single-site location is the greatest threat, making it susceptible to disease and / or natural disasters such as volcanic eruption and earthquakes. The population needs to be spread out, with a second viable population established elsewhere in Indonesia.
How is the Javan Rhino Study and Conservation Area tackling this problem?
The first step towards accomplishing this goal is to create conditions that will allow the existing population to expand. The Javan Rhino Study and Conservation Area has been working towards this by increasing the amount of habitat available for Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon.
5,000 hectares of rhino habitat has already been created in the lowland tropical forest on Ujung Kulon’s eastern border. A key activity has been clearing Arenga palm, an invasive species that now dominates much of the tropical forest within the National Park, choking out rhino food plants. Without the sun-blocking effect of Arenga, rhino food plants can regenerate rather quickly. The areas cleared have so far produced great results, with new rhinos moving into the area. A fence has been constructed at the border of the project area in order to protect rhinos from diseases carried by domestic cattle, which still wander into the Park to graze.
Looking ahead, the task is now to find a suitable site for the first rhino translocations, and carry out research to find out which are the most suitable rhinos to move to establish a second population, using DNA and fertility testing.
Saving Critically Endangered Javan rhinos from the brink of extinction.
Very few people have seen Javan rhinos in the wild. Rangers are experts at tracking their footprints.
Rhino Protection Unit Observation Tower, Ujung Kulon National Park.
Rhino Protection Unit ranger canoeing across the thick forest.
jung Kulon National Park, location of the Javan Rhino Study and Conservation Area
Map of Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia.
We’ve supported the important task of clearing invasive Arenga palm, restoring thousands of hectares of rhino habitat. As the plans for the Javan Rhino Study and Conservation Area move forward, we will be supporting research, including looking for a suitable site for rhino translocations, and research into the age, fertility, and social structures of the existing Javan rhino population.