The Javan rhino is a rare rhino of the Rhinoceros family and one of five extant rhino species. Its horn usually measures less than 25 cm in length, and is therefore smaller than that of other rhino species. Only adult males possess horns, while females are completely devoid of them.
Once the most widespread among the Asian rhinos, the Javan rhinoceros occupied an area that reached India and China from the islands of Java and Sumatra, through Southeast Asia. The species is seriously threatened: there remains a single known population in nature and no individuals in captivity.
It is perhaps the rarest large mammal in the world, with a population of just 58-61 in Ujung Kulon National Park in the western end of Java in Indonesia. A second population in Vietnam's Cat Tien National Park was declared extinct in 2011.
The decline of the Javan rhino is attributed to poaching, especially for the horn, which is particularly sought after in traditional Chinese medicine. When the presence of Europeans became more consistent in its range, even big game hunting became a serious threat.
Endangered Animal Species: Part-5, Javan Rhino
Habitat destruction, especially as a result of wars such as the Vietnam War, in Southeast Asia also contributed to the decline of the species and prevented its recovery. The current range falls entirely within a strictly protected area, but rhinos are still at the mercy of poachers, disease and the loss of genetic diversity due to inbreeding.
Excluding humans, adults have no predators in their range.
The Javan rhino generally avoids humans, but can attack when it feels threatened. Scientists and conservationists are only rarely able to study the animal directly, given its extreme rarity and the danger of interfering with such an endangered species.
Researchers rely on photo traps and fecal samples to assess health and behavior. Consequently, the Javan rhino is the least studied rhino species. Images of two adult specimens with their young captured with a motion-activated camera were released on February 28, 2011 by WWF and the National Parks Authority of Indonesia, thus proving that the species is still reproducing in the wild.
Like many other representatives of the Asian and African megafauna, the Javan rhino has been hunted incessantly for decades as a big game trophy following the arrival of Europeans in its range. With the rhino being an easy target, big game hunting has affected its decline as much as poaching for the horn.
The damage caused by the big game was so great that when the serious situation of the rhinoceros became evident in the eyes of the world, only the populations of Java and Vietnam (at the time, the latter, still unknown) remained.