Critically Endangered Javan Rhino Calf Spotted in the Wild

Mike Powers
Critically Endangered Javan Rhino Calf Spotted in the Wild

Good news from a camera trap in the Javan jungle: the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros population has a new member, based on an image of a calf captured by a camera trap last month, AFP reports.

The Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is a critically endangered species that grows to about 10 feet (3 meters) long and at maturity stands over 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall. There are fewer than 100 Javan rhinos in the wild today; the new calf was spotted in footage from one of 126 camera traps installed in Ujung Kulon National Park on Java, the only place where the animals still roam in the wild.

AFP reported that authorities believe there are 82 of the rhinos in the park’s 463 square miles, a slightly higher estimate than numbers from other sources. There were as few as 62 of the rhinos in 2013, but a spate of births increased the population and was a relieving indicator that the rhinos were well-suited to their now-restricted range.

A camera trap image of a rhino calf in 2021 (not the newly reported calf).

A camera trap image of a rhino calf in 2021 (not the newly reported calf).
Image: Environment and Forestry Ministry

The rhino’s current population is a far cry from what it once was; there were rhinos on mainland Asia just 15 years ago. The last Javan rhino in Vietnam was poached in 2010, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The animal’s numbers have dwindled due to illegal poaching, habitat loss, food availability, and disease, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

In a statement, Satyawan Pudyatmoko, an official in Indonesia’s environment ministry, said the image was evidence that the rhinos are breeding properly.

The sex of the new calf is not known, but the camera trap footage shows it walking alongside its mother in the wildlife park, according to AFP. The new calf is apparently the first seen since two were spotted in camera traps in September 2020.

The Indonesian environmental ministry is also working to protect the critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros, which only persists on Sumatra and Borneo and whose total population is around 40, a dire dropoff from earlier estimates of about 80 individuals.

The road to recovery for rhinoceroses is long, and threats like poaching remain omnipresent. But every new Javan rhino offers a much-needed boost for the species.

More: Why a Genome Can’t Bring Back an Extinct Animal

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