Javan Rhinoceros
(Rhinoceros sondaicus)
With fewer than 60 individuals remaining, the Javan rhino is the rarest of all the living rhinoceros species. It has a single horn and deeply folded skin that resembles armour plating. Like other rhinos, the species eats plants and spends most of its time wallowing in pools of mud to keep cool. Two subspecies exist, one in Vietnam and the other in Java. Both have been reduced to a single population as a result of extensive habitat loss and poaching for their horns. Although these populations are now protected in national parks, they remain at risk from poaching, and the small population sizes mean that they are extremely vulnerable to disease and natural disasters.
Urgent Conservation Actions
The establishment of more sanctuaries where managed breeding programmes can be carried out. Efforts should also be made to locate and protect additional wild populations.
Indonesia (Java) and Vietnam.
Associated Blog Posts
19th Sep 11
September 22nd is World Rhino Day, in honour of that we are dedicating our species of the week to not one, but three Rhino species. Of the five rhino species...  Read

8th Mar 11
Last week WWF and Indonesia’s National Park Authority released new video footage of two critically endangered Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus) and their...  Read

12th May 10
One of the few remaining Javan rhinos was killed by poachers in Vietnam last month, it has been revealed; with fewer than 60 individuals remaining the Javan ...  Read

5th Jan 10
The EDGE team is pleased to welcome its two newest Community members - Sarah Brook and Simon Mahood from WWF Vietnam.           Sarah and Sim...  Read

Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Rhinocerotidae
Together with equids (horses, zebras and asses) and tapirs, rhinos are the only surviving members of an ancient and formerly diverse group of ungulates, which originated in the Eocene around 50 million years ago. The ancestors of the Javan and Indian (one-horned) rhinos diverged from the two-horned species some 30 million years ago. The Javan rhino is thought to have remained relatively unchanged for over one million years. Placed in the same genus as the Indian rhino, the species is considered to be more primitive than either of the two African rhinos.
Head and body length: 300-320 cm
Shoulder height: 160-175cm
Tail length: 70 cm
Horn length: 150 mm
Weight: 1,500-2,000 kg
Very similar in appearance to the Indian rhino. In fact, for years they were thought to be the same species; however, the Javan rhino is slightly smaller. Its grey, hairless skin is deeply folded, giving the rhino the appearance of having armour plating (although less so than the Indian rhino). The upper lip is pointed and prehensile and is used to grasp food. Males have a single horn about 25 cm long. Females usually have smaller horns or no horn at all. The Vietnamese subspecies is considerably smaller than the Indonesian subspecies.
The species is predominantly a browser, feeding on shoots, twigs, young foliage and fallen fruit, although it can also graze on various species of grass. The diet is supplemented with salt, usually from salt-licks, but rhinos have been known to drink seawater as well when available. Individuals prefer to feed at dawn or dusk and spend their days bathing and wallowing in mud. They are largely solitary animals with loosely defined territories, although they sometimes congregate at wallows and salt-licks. Females become sexually mature at about 3-4 years, with males maturing slightly later. The rate of reproduction of this species is relatively slow, with females giving birth to a single calf every 4-5 years.
The species prefers tall grass and reed beds in dense lowland rain forests. A good supply of water and plentiful mud wallows are essential, as is the presence of salt-licks for acquiring minerals. The rhino can tolerate disturbed forest, but the intensity of human activities has forced the few remaining populations to retreat into suboptimal upland habitats.
Formerly widespread in south-east Asia, the species is now confined to two widely separate locations. The Indonesian subspecies is found in the Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, while the Vietnamese subspecies is restricted to a small population at the Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam. There have been some unconfirmed reports of the animals in other locations.
Population Estimate
Fewer than 60 animals remain in just two populations. There are no animals in captivity and the Vietnamese population is estimated to number fewer than 8 individuals.
The rarest of all the rhinoceros species. It is classified as Critically Endangered (CR C2a(i);D) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and is listed on Appendix I of CITES.
Habitat loss and fragmentation have played a major role in the decline of the species. The two remaining populations are now protected in national parks. However, the rhinos continue to be threatened by illegal poaching for the horn and other body parts used in traditional Asian medicine. Another major cause for concern is the fact that the population sizes are so small. This makes the rhinos extremely vulnerable to disease, natural disasters and problems caused by inbreeding. The situation is critical for the Vietnamese population, which is believed to contain no adult males.
Conservation Underway
International conservation organisations such as WWF and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) are working together with the Vietnamese and Indonesian governments to protect remaining Javan rhinos. The IRF is concentrating on setting up and supporting regular anti-poaching patrols to reduce the occurrence of illegal poaching within protected habitats. This approach is combined with education programmes for the local communities, so that they can learn how to use sustainable methods to farm the surrounding land without causing further harm to the rhinos. WWF supports this scheme, and has also launched an action plan designed to tackle the issue of habitat loss. At least in Java, numbers seem to be slowly recovering as a result of these efforts. A programme is also in place to decrease the demand for rhino horn products by researching possible alternatives for use in traditional Asian medicine.

The aim of this project is to determine the population status (no. of individuals and sex) of the Javan Rhino in Vietnam. This information is critically needed to inform an appropriate management strategy and motivate the Vietnamese government to take effective action to conserve this subspecies.

Conservation Proposed
Despite anti-poaching efforts, animals are still being killed for their horns, and more protection is urgently needed. This still might not be enough to save the tiny Vietnamese population, which is thought to contain no adult males, and more intensive conservation efforts are likely to be required if this subspecies is to be saved. Several groups support the ideas of establishing more sanctuaries, where managed breeding programmes can be carried out in areas of natural habitat. In the meantime, efforts should be made to locate and establish additional wild populations (there have been several unconfirmed sightings of rhinos in areas where they are currently believed extinct).
Associated EDGE Community members

Sarah is carrying out a six month survey of Javan rhinos in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam.

Simon is currently working to conserve the Javan rhinoceros in Vietnam.

International Rhino Foundation
The IRF was founded in 1993 in response to the global crisis in rhino conservation. The IRF is a collaborative conservation initiative providing technical, administrative and financial services and support for scientific research and intensive management for both captive and wild rhinos. The IRF is involved in both in situ and captive programs, which the IRF believes are both critical for the survival of the rhino especially the extremely rare Javan rhino.

The rhino is one of WWF flagship species, acting as an ambassador and highlighting the need for conserving the habitats in which they live. WWF works across the globe and aims to tackle the main threats facing rhino by strengthening protected areas in Asia, lobbying to halt the illegal timber trade, and stamping out the illegal trade in horn.

Rhino Resource Centre
The Rhino Resource Center is committed to assisting research and conservation of the rhinoceros worldwide by collecting all publications and maintaining archives. The website provides data on all published work on each of the five species of rhinoceros.

CITES http://www.cites.org/

Foose, T. J. F., Van Strien, N. (eds.). 1997. Asian Rhino Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group. IUCN, Cambridge UK.

Kemf, E. and Van Strien, N. 2002. Wanted Alive: Asian Rhinos in the Wild. A WWF Species Status Report. WWF, Gland, Switzerland.

Nowak, R. M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

van Strien, N.J., Steinmetz, R., Manullang, B., Sectionov, Han, K.H., Isnan, W., Rookmaaker, K., Sumardja, E., Khan, M.K.M. & Ellis, S. 2008. Rhinoceros sondaicus. In: 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. Downloaded on 12 November 2010.

International Rhino Foundation. (July 2005).

Save the Rhino. (July 2005).

Distribution map based on data in Thomas J. Foose and Nico van Strien (Editors). 1997. Asian Rhinos – Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, UK. 112 + v pp.

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