WWF Report confirms Javan rhino extinct in Vietnam
25 October 2011
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WWF and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) have confirmed the extinction of the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) in Vietnam.
Genetic analysis of 22 dung samples collected between 2009 – 2010, by a Cat Tien National Park and WWF survey team, have confirmed that the samples all belonged to a rhinoceros, which was found dead in the park in April 2010.
The findings, presented in a new WWF report, also point to poaching as the likely cause of the death, as the rhino, which was found shortly after the survey was completed, had a bullet in its leg and its horn had been removed.
“The last Javan rhino in Vietnam has gone,” said Tran Thi Minh Hien, WWF-Vietnam Country Director. “It is painful that despite significant investment in the Vietnamese rhino population conservation efforts failed to save this unique animal. Vietnam has lost part of its natural heritage.”
The rhinoceros was believed to be extinct from mainland Asia until 1988 when an individual was hunted in the Cat Tien area, leading to the discovery of a small population. From the mid-1990s, a number of organizations were involved in efforts to conserve the remaining Javan rhino population in Cat Tien National Park, but the report highlights that ineffective protection by the park was ultimately the cause of the extinction.
Illegal hunting to supply the wildlife trade has reduced many species in Vietnam to small and isolated populations. The Indochinese tiger, Asian elephant and endemic species like the saola, Tonkin snub-nosed monkey and Siamese crocodile are on the verge of extinction in the country.
“The tragedy of the Vietnamese Javan rhinoceros is a sad symbol of this extinction crisis,” said Nick Cox, Manager of WWF’s Species Programme in the Greater Mekong. “The single most important action to conserve Vietnam’s endangered species is protecting their natural habitat and deterring poaching and illegal wildlife trade. Vietnam’s protected areas need more rangers, better training and monitoring, and more accountability.”
WWF recognises that habitat loss played a key role in sealing the fate of the rhino in Vietnam and warns that inadequate law enforcement and ineffective management of protected areas, encroachment and infrastructure development occurring within and close to Vietnam’s protected areas will only exert additional pressures on already fragile populations of species.
“Reintroduction of the rhinoceros to Vietnam is not economically or practically feasible. It is gone from Vietnam forever,” said Christy Williams, WWF’s Asian Elephant and Rhino Programme Coordinator.
The Javan rhinoceros is now believed to be confined to one population, comprising less than 50 individuals, in a small national park in Indonesia. The species is critically endangered and with demand for rhino horn for the Asian traditional medicine trade increasing every year, protection and expansion of the Indonesian population is the highest priority.
“This makes our work in Indonesia even more critical. We must ensure that what happened to the Javan rhinoceros in Vietnam is not repeated in Indonesia a few years down the line,” said Susie Ellis of the International Rhino Foundation.
Three different subspecies of Javan rhino are recognized. The most abundant subspecies (R. sondaicus sondaicus) lives only in Ujung Kulon National Park, Java, Indonesia, with approximately 50 individuals remaining. The subspecies once found in Bengal, Assam, and Myanmar (R. sondicus inermis) is now extinct. The third subspecies formerly occurred in Lao, Cambodia, eastern Thailand and Vietnam. R. sondaicus annamiticus was rediscovered in Vietnam in 1988 and is now extinct in Vietnam, after the last one was found dead in April 2010 in Cat Tien National Park.
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