18 May 2017
Natural disasters threaten last of the Javan Rhinos with extinction
- Remaining population of Javan rhinos could be wiped out by volcanic eruptions or tsunamis –which are projected to occur within the next 100 years
- Species only found in one national park - new study urges the establishment of further populations away from the reach of natural disasters
London: The world’s only population of Javan rhinoceros - already under severe threat from poaching - could also face extinction in the future due to natural disasters, according to a new study. The species is found in Ujung Kulon National Park, which is within sight of volcanic Mount Krakatoa and close to the Indonesian Sunda Arc, an area prone to earthquakes. It is predicted that a tsunami as high as 10 metres, which is projected to occur within the next 100 years, would cause devastation to the species.
The 2013 global population of Javan rhinos was 62 animals and it is thought that the park is close to reaching the maximum number of the species that can be sustained in the area.
Nicola Loweth, Regional Officer - India and China at WWF said:
“As there are no Javan rhinos in captivity anywhere in the world, should we lose this population, we’ve essentially lost the entire species. This study – which found that a tsunami as high as 10 metres could threaten 80% of their habitat with the highest density of rhinos - reinforces the importance of establishing a second population outside of Ujung Kulon National Park – not only to safeguard the species’ future should a catastrophic event occur, but also to enable further growth of the population which is restricted in its current location.”
To create further populations, new sites need to be found and secured. This will involve intensive monitoring in Ujung Kulon National Park to determine which individual Javan rhinos may be suitable for relocation.
In addition to the call to build further populations, the study, which is by conservationists from Indonesia and around the world, including authors from Ujung Kulon National Park Authority, WWF, Indonesian Rhino Foundation, Global Wildlife Conservation and Colorado State University, emphasises the importance of taking action to help increase the Ujung Kulon National Park’s small rhino numbers, increasing survival odds for at least part of the population in the case of a natural disaster. This includes continuing the strict protection and monitoring of the remaining rhinos, as well as increasing the efforts to look after their habitat, such as controlling Arenga palm, which shades out the forest floor preventing the growth of plants eaten by the rhinos.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species classifies the Javan rhinoceros as critically endangered. Researchers hope to use the study's findings to revise the Conservation Strategy and Action Plan of Javan rhino, which will expire in 2017.
Notes to editors
- The study“Preventing Global Extinction of the Javan Rhino: Tsunami Risk and Future Conservation Direction,” was published by conservationists from Indonesia and around the world, including authors from Ujung Kulon National Park Authority, WWF-Indonesia, Indonesian Rhino Foundation, Global Wildlife Conservation and Colorado State University. The study is published in Conservation Letters and can be downloaded here.
- Photos are available here copyright @WWF-Indonesia.
- WWF’s landmark Living Planet Report 2016, details the threats to species across the globe. Current predictions are that wildlife numbers will plummet by 67 per cent between the 1970s and the end of this decade unless urgent action is taken. The most common threat to wildlife populations is the loss and decline of the areas they live in. Download here.
- WWF is one of the world’s largest independent conservation organisations, with more than five million supporters and a global network active in more than one hundred countries. Through our engagement with the public, businesses and government, we focus on safeguarding the natural world, creating solutions to the most serious environmental issues facing our planet, so that people and nature thrive. Find out more about our work, past and present atwwf.org.uk.
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