Vietnam’s last Javan rhino was ᴘᴏᴀᴄʜᴇᴅ in Cat Tien National Park in April 2010. A large female, estimated to be between 15 -25 years old was sʜᴏᴛ and ᴋɪʟʟᴇᴅ for her horn.
The ᴛʀᴀɢɪᴄ discovery comes after a 2004 survey conducted by Queen’s University, Canada, that found at least two rhinos living in the park at the time.
“The last Javan rhino in Vietnam has gone,” said Tran Thi Minh Hien, WWF-Vietnam Country Director. “It is ᴘᴀɪɴful that despite significant investment in the Vietnamese rhino population conservation efforts failed to save this unique animal. Vietnam has lost part of its natural heritage.”
The ᴇxᴛɪɴᴄᴛion of wild Javan rhino in Vietnam has impacted the country profoundly and can be likened to suddenly losing the letter ‘R’ from the English alphabet.
The rhinoceros was believed to be ᴇxᴛɪɴᴄᴛ from mainland Asia until 1988 when an individual was ʜᴜɴᴛᴇᴅ from the Cat Tien area, leading to the discovery of a small population. From the mid-1990s, a number of organizations were involved in efforts to conserve the remaining Javan rhino population in Cat Tien National Park, but the report highlights that ineffective protection by the park was ultimately the cause of the ᴇxᴛɪɴᴄᴛion. This is a common problem in most protected areas in Vietnam that ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛens the survival of many other species, says WWF.
Although rhino horn has been banned for 25 years as a traditional medicine in China, consumption has surged recently as well as in Vietnam, where it is promoted as a purported ᴄᴀɴᴄᴇʀ cure, general health tonic and ʜᴀɴɢᴏᴠᴇʀ cure. Primarily composed of keratin, the same protein found in human hair and fingernails, rhino horn has no known unique medicinal properties.
The Javan rhinoceros is now believed to be confined to one population, less than 50 individuals, in a small national park in Indonesia. The species is ᴄʀɪᴛɪᴄᴀʟly enᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀed and with demand for rhino horn for the Asian traditional medicine trade increasing every year, protection and expansion of the Indonesian population is the highest priority.
“This makes our work in Indonesia even more ᴄʀɪᴛɪᴄᴀʟ. We must ensure that what happened to the Javan rhinoceros in Vietnam is not repeated in Indonesia a few years down the line,” said Susie Ellis of the International Rhino Foundation.