Javan Rhino Conservation Program
With our local partner the Rhino Foundation of Indonesia (Yayasan Badak Indonesia or YABI), IRF protects the world’s only population of Javan rhinos while also working to expand the species’ habitat in Indonesia.
Indonesia’s remote Ujung Kulon National Park holds the world’s only viable population of the Critically Endangered Javan rhino. An estimated 63-67 Javan rhinos remain on the planet. Presently, only about 40% of Ujung Kulon National Park is considered suitable habitat for Javan rhinos and the park is now believed to be close to carrying capacity.
Because the last population of Javan rhinos exists in a single location, it is especially susceptible to catastrophic losses from disease or natural disasters. Ujung Kulon and surrounding areas were decimated by the eruption of Krakatau in 1883. Anak Krakatau is now active and if a similar eruption were to occur in the near future, the Javan rhino population would not be safe.
IRF and our partner, the Rhino Foundation of Indonesia (YABI), operate five Rhino Protection Units (RPUs) in Ujung Kulon National Park. Rhino Protection Units (RPUs) are highly-trained, four-person anti-poaching teams that intensively patrol key areas within Indonesia’s national parks. They monitor threatened wildlife, deactivate traps and snares, identify and apprehend illegal intruders, including poachers, and investigate crime scenes, thus preventing or reducing the loss of wildlife. The goal of the RPU program is to prevent the extinction of Javan rhinos and other threatened species and to protect critical habitats in Java through proactive prevention of poaching and habitat destruction.
Although the RPUs in Ujung Kulon have been very successful, protection in itself isn’t going to be enough to save the species from extinction. Over the long-term, the population needs to be spread out, with a second viable population established elsewhere in Indonesia. Our first step towards accomplishing this goal is to increase the habitat available in eastern Ujung Kulon so the existing population can expand and grow
For the past 19 years, International Rhino Foundation (IRF)-funded Rhino Protection Units have kept the Ujung Kulon population safe from poaching.
The RPUs patrol and survey on foot, motorbike, and by boat to monitor Javan rhinos and other threatened species through direct sightings, footprints, feces, wallows, and evidence of feeding. RPUs immediately remove any traps or snares discovered during patrols and investigate any illegal activity, including illegal hunting and fishing, illegal logging, and construction of camps or houses. If appropriate, the RPUs then collect evidence and help make arrests.
In addition to operating the RPUs, our local implementing partner, YABI, is almost finished building the 5,000 hectare Javan Rhino Study and Conservation Area in the Gunung Honje area, along Ujung Kulon’s eastern boundary. This area provides more habitat to allow the population to increase, under intensified management and protection. The continued survival of the Javan rhino depends on their population increasing in numbers as rapidly as possible, and in spreading the population out so that ‘all the eggs are not in one basket’. The study and conservation area eventually will serve as a ‘staging ground’ from which translocations to a second site can occur.
We have hired more than 150 people from surrounding communities construct an 8-km perimeter fence around the study and conservation area to prevent encroachment, and to build three guard posts and a base camp for the new RPU unit that will patrol the area. They have also cleared 78 hectares of the invasive Arenga palm to allow native rhino food plants to recolonize the forests.
As the Gunung Honje habitat has been improved over the past several years, Javan rhinos from the population in the western section of Ujung Kulon have begun moving into the area on their own – nine rhinos are now regularly using the habitat. We are currently seeking funding for more Arenga palm removal, both in the JRSCA area and in the core zone of the park, once permission has been received from the government.