When you’re as elusive and sparse as the Javan rhino, news that three baby rhinos were spotted playing with their mother in an Indonesian national park is a big deal.
That’s because rhinos in Java are critically endangered, with only 60 known to be in existence. The three baby rhinos spotted on camera in recent months add significantly to the worldwide total and have inspired new hope for the species, Agence France-Presse reported.
They were likely filmed in April, May, or July.
Baby rhinos have been spotted before, but sporadically and usually only one at a time. In 2011, their numbers had dropped to 35 in the park and last year, only one calf was spotted, said Aom Mukhtarom, who helps monitor rhinos there.
All Javan rhinos in the world live in this park, the BBC added.
Park chief Mohammad Haryono said the species is very unique — they have folds of skin that resemble armor — but are also “elusive and shy away from humans, and they have a higher stress level compared to rhinos in India or Africa.”
As conversation efforts to save the animal continue, the sighting of three baby rhinos is “wonderful news,” said Indonesia Rhino Foundation head Widodo Ramono. “Now we just need to ensure their protection.”
That will be a challenge, as poaching continues to threaten the animal. Traditional Asian medicine uses its horn, and can garner a pretty steep price tag.
The national park where the baby rhinos were spotted is called Ujon Kulon, on the island of Java. They were likely born in the past year in a new sanctuary. Among them are one female and two males, said Haryono. The cameras had been set up to track the species — mom and babies all looked healthy.
This sanctuary, already proving fruitful, was established only last year. The fenced-in expansion — to 12,600 acres of rainforest and streams — proved difficult to set up because farmers had to be moved to accommodate the rhinos, who until that point lived in one corner of the park, Ramono said.
“The sanctuary has improved security for the rhinos, not only from poachers but also from local people passing by. (But it) does not mean all disruptions will stop for the rhinos.”
Several years later, the rhinos have started to move into the new habitat. Ujon Kulon is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Javan rhinos are traditionally revered. In Javanese folklore, they’re called Abah Gede, or Great Father. Among three Asian species, the Javan is critically endangered, as is the Sumatran. The one-horned rhino is listed as vulnerable.
[Photo Courtesy Peter Doomen / Shutterstock]