2012 is the International Year of the Rhino

javan rhino

javan rhino (credit: Alain Compost )

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia has declared that 2012 is the International Year of the Rhino in order to raise awareness of the threats facing the species. The campaign was launched on 5th June following a request by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature  (IUCN) and other wildlife organisations.

President Yudhoyono was the ideal choice to launch the campaign as 2 species of endangered rhinos live in the country. 

Launching the International Year of the Rhino on World Environment Day President Yudhoyono stated, “The International Rhino Year is meant to provide momentum and access for increasing international cooperation in the conservation of rhinos in our country.

The President announced that the high level task force established in the country consisting of senior politicians and international experts would be expected to involve the local communities to make it a success.

He also placed rhino conservation as a major part of developing Indonesia’s reputation overseas, “Make rhino conservation part of promoting our reputation as one of the global leaders of green economic development,” he stated.

Raising awareness of the plight of the rhino and encouraging rhino host nations to take part in active steps to protect the species is essential. In  the last 10 years two species of rhino have been lost for ever. The Western Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes) in Cameroon and the Indochinese Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) in Vietnam have both gone extinct. 

At the moment two species of rhino are classed as critically endangered on the Red List which means they are extremely close to extinction. These are the Northern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) and the mainland population of the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis lasiotus).

We warmly welcome the announcement of the International Year of the Rhino by the President of Indonesia and the related commitments that have been made,” says John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). “Strong and clear political messages from the highest possible levels are required to combat the illegal killing and trade in rhino and the message coming from the President is loud and clear. We hope that this bold initiative by Indonesia will serve as a catalyst for further high-level political support and commitments to protect the rhino in the wild across all concerned States

Indonesia is host to two species of rhino the Javan and the Sumatran. Camera trap records place the population level of Javan rhinos at 35 in the Ujung Kulon National Park. The Sumatran rhino is though to number about 200 spread between the Way Kambas National Park in Lampung and Leuser National Park in Aceh province

Indonesia has announced a range of plans to conserve and expand its native rhino populations. A special task force has been assigned to monitor and co-ordinate the activities. Projects include:

  • enhancements of protected areas,
  • moving isolated individuals or small numbers of rhino into protected areas
  • and a plan to try an establish a second population centre of the highly endangered Javan rhino.

One of the programs of the Ministry of Forestry is the protection of endangered animals, such as rhinos, tigers, elephants and orangutans,” says Zulkifli Hasan, Minister of Forestry, Indonesia. “Among those, the rhinos are closest to extinction. For this reason they need special attention from all of us. In this context, we are inviting and encouraging all stakeholders and world organizations to join the effort to save the rhinos.

WWF offers its full support for the commitment made by Indonesia’s president to secure a future for the country’s critically endangered rhinos,” says Dr Efransjah, CEO of WWF-Indonesia.

There is an urgent need to decrease pressures on habitats and to establish a second Javan rhino population in a safer and suitable location. This will be a big endeavour that will require true leadership from government and critical partnerships among scientists, conservation organisations and local communities.

So far 11 rhino hosting countries including  Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Zimbabwe and Malaysia have supported the establishments of the International Year of the Rhino. The first real opportunity for international policy discussions on rhino projects is likely to take place in September at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Republic of Korea,

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