Animals are undoubtedly one of the most unique and diverse species on our planet. However, many species, including the Javan rhino, are critically endangered.
Recently, a video posted by Indonesia’s environment minister, Siti Nurbaya Baker, captured one of these rare Javan rhinos happily rolling around the muddy base of a waterfall.
This footage provides a glimpse into the life of this wonderful but rare species. Let's look at Javan rhinos and why they are endangered.
A Keystone Species
Javan rhinos are the most threatened of the five main rhino species, with only 39 males and 33 females left in the entire world. These rhinos once roamed throughout the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and Northern India, but are now confined to just one national park.
Javan rhinos are a keystone species in their ecosystem, meaning that their ecosystems rely on them to survive, even though it may not seem like it. Without the Javan rhino, the entire ecosystem could collapse! The rhinos’ grazing helps maintain the grasslands, which helps support other species. Researchers have also found that rhinos bring more biodiversity in both plants and other animal species wherever they go. While they contribute much to nature, the rhino caught rolling in mud was most likely doing so to regulate its body temperature and protect its skin from parasites!
The typical male Javan rhino has a singular horn coming out just above its nose, while females have no horn at all. They are close to the same height as an average human when they stand on all fours, which is about 1.7 meters (5.5 feet). Javan rhinos can be quite large, with some weighing over 4,000 pounds! So why are these enormous animals going extinct?
What Caused Javan Rhinos to Near Extinction?
The 72 remaining Javan rhinos reside in the Ujung Kulon National Park on the Indonesian island of Java. They used to live in vast expanses throughout the wild, but threats such as poaching and wildlife trade have dwindled their numbers.
The biggest threat to rhinos is poaching, which happens primarily in Asia. Some people in Vietnam believe that the Javan rhino’s horn can cure cancer and create other medicines. Rhino horns are also viewed as high-value gifts. In China, rhino horns are seen as an investment piece. They are even shown off in art or antique markets! Because it is illegal, all the selling and buying of rhino horns is done on the black market or through criminal organizations.
Another huge threat to these animals is illegal wildlife trading. Even though rhino trading has been banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora, crime syndicates still poach and trade rhinos. As people get richer and richer, the demand for rhinos goes higher and higher, which results in more illegal poaching and trading.
Many species of rhino are rare, which is why capturing one on video is such an incredible feat! Rhinos, whether rolling around in the mud or preventing the collapse of entire ecosystems, are important creatures. That’s why many wildlife conservationists will work hard to protect their species for years to come.
Sources: Reuters, World Wildlife Foundation, Baby Rhino Rescue, Animal Diversity