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It's International Year of the Rhino

6 June 2012

In response to international concerns about the rise in illegal hunting of rhinos and demand for rhino horn, which is affecting all five rhino species, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia has declared 5 June 2012 as the start of the International Year of the Rhino.

With the future survival of both the Javan and Sumatran rhinos dependant on effective conservation action in Indonesia, President Yudhoyono took this step, which follows the advice of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other conservation organisations including WWF.

The government of Indonesia has also made commitments to establish a high-level rhino task force of national and international experts; allocate sufficient resources to enforce protection of remaining rhino populations, and ensure that there is regular and intensive monitoring of all rhino populations in Indonesia.

In the last decade, two rhino subspecies, the western black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes) in Cameroon and the Indochinese Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) in Vietnam have gone extinct.

Today, the populations of two more subspecies, the northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) and the mainland population of the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis lasiotus), both listed as critically endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, are perilously close to extinction because of an increase in illegal hunting and non-traditional use of rhino horn.

During this International Year of the Rhino, we hope all rhino range states in Africa and Asia will join Indonesia and give priority to securing their rhino populations. There are ambitions to bring illegal hunting and trade, especially the illegal trade of rhino horn, under control by ensuring that effective deterrents are in place and enforced.

We also hope measures that encourage a rapid growth in rhino numbers will be taken. In Indonesia, extra action will be taken to translocate isolated individuals to actively managed protected areas and improve rhino habitats by removing invasive plant species and providing additional sources of water.

Effective conservation by governments in Africa and Asia, in some cases with the support of non-governmental conservation organisations, has been successful in bringing back the southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum), black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) from the brink of extinction.

It's clear that highly-focused management and improved conservation measures can lead to increases in the populations of rhinos, and it is now urgent that this is also implemented for the Javan and Sumatran rhinos, as the Indonesian president has stated.

The urgent measures needed to ensure the effective conservation of the world’s five rhino species will be discussed at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Republic of Korea, from 6-15 September 2012.

"WWF offers its full support for the commitment made by Indonesia's president to secure a future for the country's critically endangered rhinos,” says Dr Efransjah, CEO of WWF-Indonesia.

“There is an urgent need to decrease pressures on habitats and to establish a second Javan rhino population in a safer and suitable location. This will be a big endeavour that will require true leadership from government and critical partnerships among scientists, conservation organisations and local communities.”

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