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The Javan rhino is now officially extinct in Vietnam
The Javan rhino is now officially extinct in VietnamImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Rhinos in danger

October 25, 2011

The Javan rhino is now officially extinct in Vietnam. Officials of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has confirmed that Vietnam has lost this endangered animal due to poor conservation efforts and poaching.


Vietnam is not going to be seeing any more of its Javan rhinos after conservationists have confirmed that the species is now extinct in the country.

The WWF country chief in Vietnam, Tran Thi Minh Hien, laments the loss: "It is painful 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."

A dead animal was all that was left of the last rhino sighted in Vietnam in 2010. It had had its horn sawn off and a bullet wound in its leg. A genetic analysis of 22 dung samples collected from the sanctuary between 2009 and 2010 confirmed suspicions that this animal was probably the last of the wild rhinos in Vietnam. Poaching, according to the WWF, was the most probable cause of death.

Failed efforts

Ironically, the Javan rhino was already thought to be extinct from mainland Asia, until one animal was found in the Cat Tien area in 1988. Authorities then discovered a small population of Javan rhinos hidden in the forest.

Several organizations have pitched in since then to save the animal from extinction and the Cat Tien National Park was established in 1998 as a composite of three existing protected areas. From 1998 to 2004 WWF invested 6.3 million dollars in the park, with up to 600,000 dollars specially assigned for rhino conservation efforts.

A dead rhino with its horn cut off, found in South Africa
Rhinos are often hunted for their horns which are believed to have medicinal propertiesImage: lion and rhino park

The efforts apparently have not borne much fruit, as the director of Cat Tien National Park, Tran Van Thanh says, it is impossible for park employees to keep people off the premises. Nearly 100,000 people live around the park area and it is difficult to prevent them from using forest land for farming. In 2005, forest rangers found about 25,000 traps set for wild animals, he adds.

Wildlife trade rampant

According to the WWF, only 50 individuals of the Javan rhinoceros species survive in the world, confined to a small national park in Indonesia. Despite restrictions, wildlife trade remains an active threat to the rhinoceros and other endangered animals.

Traditional eastern medicine uses rhino horns, believed to be a potent medicine for several diseases, including cancer. The demand for rhino horn for traditional medicine is increasing, according to WWF, despite scientific research revealing it is made of keratin, the same material as hair and fingernails. Experts say it has no medicinal value.

Author: Manasi Gopalakrishnan (Reuters, AFP, AP)
Editor:Grahame Lucas

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