Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Javan rhino extinct on Asian mainland

This year has been a very bad one for rhinos. Poaching, which increased in 2010, has multiplied by about the same amount this year.

Most tragically, following the extinction of the northern white rhinoceros in 2006, the last Javan rhinoceros has disappeared from Vietnam. The species was known before 1988 only from its remaining stronghold in the extreme west of Java, but the a small population was discovered in Vietnam’s Cat Tien National Park. There were even before the current rhino poaching epidemic began grave concerns that the rhinos in Cat Tien were not breeding, but still this news was very surprising since almost all the news about today’s epidemic of rhino poaching comes from Africa or Nepal. In fact, it is popularly thought that the reason for the Critically Endangered status of the Javan and Sumatran rhinoceroses is purely and simply the immense destruction for timber and agriculture of Southeast Asia’s forests. However, in reality the Sumatran species at all events is actually much more able than is popularly thought to cope with disturbances in primary rainforest – and a huge proportion of its original range was and is much too steep to farm.

Thus, we are left with poaching for horn as the culprit for these two most critically endangered rhinoceros species – this in spite of the fact that the Javan and Sumatran rhinoceroses yield a very small amount of horn and prices for them are not nearly so well-documented as those of Indian and African horn. It is interesting to imagine if rhino horn dealers actually hold stockpiles of Javan and/or Sumatran horn that they do not offer for sale to rhino horn customers even at much more than the typical asking price of $100 per gram for Indian rhino horn??

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