Extinction of javan rhino

April 10, 2023, 11:22 a.m.

The Javan rhino is the only member of its species in the Rhinoceros genus, and it is among just five remaining species in the Rhino family. Rhinos and equids are the sole surviving members of a long-extinct group of ungulates that dates back some 50 million years.

Despite the fact that these species inhabit national parks now, they are still threatened by poaching and small population sizes make them highly vulnerable to disease and natural disasters.

The Javan Rhino is native to Indonesia’s Javan region, but it has been observed in Myanmar, Malaysia, and Thailand. The Javan rhino is a critically endangered species, as its range has been reduced by habitat loss and poaching for their horns for quack medicinal purposes. They are presently at high risk of extinction, with less than 50 Javan rhinos remaining in the wild.

Javan rhinos were once rather common over a large part of Southeast Asia, from near Calcutta in India, throughout Bangladesh, southern China, Laos, Vietnam Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, the Large island of Sumatra, and the western half of Java. About 12,000 years ago they also occurred in Borneo and till about 2,000 years ago through large parts of China.

The Javan rhino is a grey-colored beast with a long horn. Its bumpy, armored appearance makes it resemble a helmet. It has a smaller head and no bumps on its skin, however it resembles the greater one-horned rhino significantly.

The Javan rhino is a smaller and lighter relative of the greater one-horned rhino. It stands at 1.4 to 1.7 metres tall at the shoulder. There is not much difference in size between the males and females, and from information gathered in Ujung Kulon and from museum skeletons, there is a possibility that females are slightly bigger.

Armoured with a thick, deeply folded hide, the Javan rhino has a prehistoric look that seems to evoke the earlier periods of Mammals’ age. This species of rhinoceros weighs 900 to 2,300 kilograms, stands 1.5 to 1.7 meters tall, and measures between 2 and 4 meters long.

Javan rhinos have a single horn, grey or brownish in colour, usually less than 20 cm long. Males have larger horns and many females, especially in Ujung Kulon, have no horn or just have a small knob on the nose. The longest horn ever recorded is only about 27 cm long.

The animal’s single horn is too short to be used as a weapon, at only 20 centimeters or less. Instead, it appears to be used as a specialized tool for hooking high-growing plants to bring them down to a level where the rhino can eat them or push through dense vegetation.

Javan rhinos are usually solitary, except for females with small calves, or during courtship. Occasionally young animals may form pairs or small groups for some time.

They are very shy and retiring, and any human activity is enough to make them flee into the most inaccessible area available. The Javan rhino lives most frequently in tall, thick grass or beds of reeds within lowland jungle and rainforest.

Javan rhinos are estimated to live an average of 35 to 40 years in the wild.

Apart from poaching, habitat destruction and loss for agriculture and development are further threats to the rhino populations. Habitat is still not a limiting factor overall, but neither of the two remaining habitats are large enough to allow significant growth of the rhino population, now or in the future. Re-establishment of Javan rhinos in areas where they have been exterminated and rejuvenation of their habitat in these areas are vital components of the conservation strategy for this species.

The biggest threat to the Javan rhino is the very small size of the remaining populations. This leads to inbreeding and loss of genetic variability and vitality. The two habitats where Javan rhinos occur are secure, but much too small for long-term survival of the species.

What do you think should be done today to prevent the extinction of another unique animal, which is of extremely important biological and genetic value?

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