Rare Javan Rhino Caught on Camera

By now you’ve probably seen this camera trap video of a Javan rhino wallowing – it’s gone viral! But we thought we’d give you a little more behind the video…

Like all rhino species, Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus) roll in the mud, or wallow, to cool off and the mud helps protect their skin from insects and the sun. Footage of this species is almost as rare as the species itself, but to see a Javan rhino’s belly in a full 360 degree roll – this close – is truly something special. 

The rhino in this video is seven year-old male Mustofa. How do we know? That’s a testament to the monitoring program in Ujung Kulon National Park (UKNP), the only place in the world where Javan rhinos still exist.

In 2011, IRF helped donate 120 video camera traps to UKNP, and we also provide operational funding for the monitoring program, along with our on-the-ground partners, Yayasan Badak Indonesia (YABI). Locations for the camera-traps are carefully selected based on observations from park staff and the Rhino Protection Units (RPUs). While RPUs are on patrol they often come across signs of Javan rhino activity. This can be footprints, feces, wallows- RPUs’ trained eyes can even spot a plant that a Javan rhino has eaten from! Every rhino sign is documented with GPS location so that the national park can look at all the data and determine the best place to hang the camera traps in order to monitor the rhinos.

An RPU takes measurements of a fresh Javan rhino footprint. By comparing these measurements to past data, they may be able to determine the sex and/or approximate age of the rhino that walked here, just from its footprint.

In this case, this camera trap was put in the exact right spot near this wallow – the camera has a sensor to detect movement and automatically turns on and records video. The videos from all the camera traps are collected and analyzed and we can tell a lot from the information they gather! The park staff has so much high-quality camera trap data that they are able to tell every individual Javan rhino apart from each other just by natural identifying marks! This is how they know there are exactly 72 rhinos in the park – 39 males and 33 females – and they all have a name, just like Mustofa. 

Of course, the rhinos don’t know that they have names, or really even know that the camera traps are watching over them. Javan rhinos are quite shy and solitary animals, there have been very few in-person photographs or videos ever taken of them. As you can see in the video below, taken by RPUs in May 2020, once they notice people they tend to hide!

With a population of only 72, Javan rhinos are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, meaning they are one step away from extinction. However, with 24/7 protection on land (and now on water), habitat management, and monitoring programs, the population is stable and slowly growing. 

Many thanks to Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry and Ujung Kulon National Park for allowing us to share these very special videos with the world, we’re so proud to be a part Javan rhino conservation.

We’re doing everything we can to help keep Javan rhinos moving in the right direction, you can learn more about our work with UKNP’s Javan rhinos here. And if you’d like to help us in our efforts to make this species thrive, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today.

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