Camera traps capture 35 rhino in Indonesian park

AP News
Posted: Dec 29, 2011 8:28 AM
Camera traps capture 35 rhino in Indonesian park

Dozens of camera traps installed in an Indonesian national park earlier this year captured images of 35 critically endangered Javan rhinos, including five calves, officials said Thursday.

It's still possible that more of the animals live in the Ujung Kulon National Park _ the animal's original habitat _ said Bambang Novianto, director of biodiversity conservation at the forestry ministry.

And the presence of young ones was welcomed as a rare piece of good news for the dying species.

The Javan rhino _ once the most widespread of Asian rhinoceroses _ was nearly wiped out when the Krakatau volcano erupted in 1883, spawning a 120-foot (40-meter) tsunami that not only killed tens of thousands of people, but inundated the park on Java island's western tip.

The greatest threat they face today is from poachers, habitat destruction and fierce competition for food with other animal species.

Experts say there may be only 40 to 60 Javan rhinos left in the wild.

The video cameras yielded 160 clips of rhinos in total, said Novianto.

"Scientists studying the images were able to identify at least 35 different rhinos _ 22 males and 13 females," he said.

The presence of at least five calves, despite harsh conditions they are facing, "raised hope for the conservation of the Javan rhinos," added Yanto Santosa, a lecturer of biodiversity conservation and adviser to the project.

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It's not clear, however, if the government will reach its target of increasing the population of Javan rhinos to 70 to 80 by 2015.

Last year, three Javan rhinos were found dead within the 297,881-acre (120,551-hectare) park, and one of them was suspected to be the victim of poachers.

The last known Javan rhino in Vietnam was found dead in April, apparently after poachers killed it for its horn.