Three of the world’s five living rhino species – the black, Sumatran and Javan – are considered Critically Endangered according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The other two species – the greater one-horned or Indian rhino and the white rhino – are listed as Vulnerable and Near Threatened, respectively. As a group, rhinos are among the world’s most endangered mammals. The two rarest species, however, the Sumatran and Javan rhinos, which together may number no more than two hundred animals, remain so poorly studied that they could easily disappear from the face of the earth without the average person ever noticing. They are rhinos under the radar.
Consider this. Both the Sumatran and Javan rhinos once ranged from the foothills of the Himalayas through Southeast Asia and Peninsular Malaysia, to the islands of Borneo, Java and Sumatra. Today, the presence of either species on the Asian mainland is in doubt, and the Javan rhino is only known to exist as a single population in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park on the western tip of Java. To put its situation in perspective, imagine that a rhino species once inhabited a three hundred-mile-wide swath of land stretching from San Francisco to New York, but was wiped out throughout its entire range and could now only be found on the island of Manhattan. Shades of the American bison!
And do the math. If Asia’s Sumatran and Javan rhinos were subjected to the same poaching pressure currently being suffered by Africa’s black and white rhinos – a death rate that now exceeds one rhino per day on average – the Sumatran rhino would essentially be extinct by the Fourth of July and the Javan rhino would be history by Memorial Day!
Fortunately, the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), its partner organization, Yayasan Badak Indonesia, and Indonesia’s Ministry of Foresry remain squarely focused on the survival of both Sumatran and Javan rhinos. Our conservation efforts receive generous support from government agencies, zoos, foundations, corporations and individual donors worldwide. And the future for these Critically Endangered rhino species will depend on the protection of wild populations and the contribution of special captive breeding programs.
In the weeks ahead, please check out IRF’s blog and share in our strategy for the survival of Rhinos Under the Radar.