‘One shot' to save highly endangered species, says leading expert
Jakarta - The head of Ujung Kulon National Park, home to the last 50 Javan Rhinos on earth, has said he sees ‘hope for the future’ in the delicate battle to protect the species from extinction.
National Park Head Agus Priambudi said there were grounds for optimism, based on evidence of new rhino births. In March 2011, Aspinall Foundation, a UK-based NGO that focuses on large mammal protection, published its rare footage of an adult and juvenile Javan Rhino. Aspinall’s video captured the rhinos in two different locations within the park.
“We have a grave responsibility in that we know the future of the Javan Rhino is literally in our hands,” said Mr Priambudi.
“Our conservation efforts have to succeed if our grandchildren will have any hope of enjoying this amazing creature. Time is not on our side. We have one shot to get it right.”
Mr. Priambudi is the program coordinator of the new Javan Rhino Conservation Working Group (CWG). The CWG is a multi-stakeholder task force led jointly by a supervisory board consisting of the Ministry of Forestry, Aida Greenbury, Managing Director Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP) and relevant authorities. It is charged with helping advance Indonesia’s Rhino Conservation Action plan enacted by the Ministry of Forestry in 2007.
The group was formalized in July 2011 to help bring together public and private partners that share an interest in saving the Javan Rhino. The CWG is supported by a special Board of Advisors that includes representatives from the Indonesian Rhino Foundation (YABI), Executive Director Dr. Widodo Ramono, wildlife experts from Gadjah Mada University and Bogor Agricultural University, a local community leader and veteran wildlife conservationist Alain Compost.
“Our goal is ambitious: to increase the Javan Rhino population by 50 percent over the next five years. We know it’s possible, and you can see on camera that our work is having its desired effect,” Mr. Priambudi added.
The Working Group just completed the first stage of its five-year work plan. The work plan includes scientific and experimental research to protect and improve rhino habitat as well as efforts to help give the Ujung Kulon team the essential “tools” it needs to realize its goals, Mr. Priambudi said. Those tools can vary greatly, from equipping the national park team to more accurately conduct rhino inventory and analyze field data and information to community training programs to simply helping bring in the right equipment for the job. One example of that is a power boat recently purchased by APP.
The speedboat improves capacity of park police to patrol sea waters and rivers within the national park. These rivers are prime spots to see the Javan Rhinos as they drink and bathe. But they are also hunting grounds for poachers - still the greatest threat to the future of the species.
The last 50 Javan Rhinos
Ujung Kulon National Park, a 122,451-hectare reserve located on the far western tip of Java Island, is home to the last known population of Javan Rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus). Today National Park officials estimate only as many as 50 Java Rhinos exist in the park and no Javan Rhinos currently live in captivity.
That is all that remains of an animal that was once one of the most widespread of the Asian rhinos, with thousands of animals ranging across Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Peninsula Malaysia. Hundreds of years of game hunting during the Dutch Colonial era caused a dramatic reduction in the population.
The number of remaining Javan Rhinos continued to decline in the latter 1900s due to illegal poaching for the valuable and rare single horn of the unique animal as well as forest encroachment that resulted in habitat degradation.
Conservation Working Group Strategy: Micro-Conservation Management Aida Greenbury, representative of the supervisory board of the Working Group, said:
“Our aim is clear: to support the Indonesian national objective to increase the Javan Rhino population by 2016. Behind that ambitious goal lies several layers of micro-conservation management which are critical to our success.”
For the Javan Rhino project, this strategy means using a micro viewpoint to address unique issues that vary greatly across the sprawling national park and its surrounding area. It involves increasing capacity and providing better tools to help manage, patrol and protect the national park. The CWG plan divides the park into six “resorts” or sectors, with specific teams assigned to identify, prioritize and address the most pressing issues in each area. Some teams are focused on clean water management and access while others are looking at rehabilitating and expanding feeding grounds and grazing areas from invasive species.
The resort-based approach will also be implemented to protect the park and its animals from illegal activity. Park personnel are assigned to patrol each of the six resorts. These personnel are empowered to arrest and prosecute anyone illegally hunting rhinos, wild ox (banteng) or other protected animals; illegally fishing using cyanide, explosives or other prohibited means; entering rhino habitat without permit; or conducting any activities that can negatively impact the park and rhino habitat, including illegal logging and burning.
In addition, the Conservation Working Group is helping re-organize the Ujung Kulon National Park team around a new model for Javan Rhino conservation to combat the two most significant threats facing the remaining population today: continued poaching and habitat degradation.
Aida Greenbury added:
“Habitat recovery is the cornerstone for increasing the population - engaging numerous stakeholders in collaboration to manage the national park and implement a comprehensive Javan Rhino conservation effort. Also critical will be our ability to engage local community groups as partners in this effort. Our success long term requires that we move people from being threats to the Javan Rhino and its habitat to working with them as partners in our execution of the action plan.”
The goal is to empower people living in the communities in buffer areas around the national park by providing economic alternatives that help eliminate the need to encroach into the park in ways that could potentially damage the habitat of the Javan Rhinos.
“Considering the current state of the Javan Rhino population, we have one shot to get this right and ensure these amazing animals are around for our children and grand children to enjoy and learn from. Over the long term our goal is to expand habitats and populations outside of Ujung Kulon National Park. But before we can do that we have to make certain that we take care of this last real population of Javan Rhinos and their home here at Ujung Kulon. The work of the conservation partnership is essential to that effort,” said Mr. Priambudi.
To view videos associated with this release, visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/asiapulpandpaper
APP's initial involvement in the Javan Rhino conservation effort started with a partnership with the Indonesian Rhino Foundation (YABI) in June 2010. Under the direction of the Department of Conservation of the Ministry of Forestry, APP partnered with Ujung Kulon National Park to develop a multistakeholder task force that included collaboration with regional and local government officials to identify and address the most urgent needs to support population expansion. This multistakeholder task force led to the creation of this new partnership. APP has committed IDR 3 Billion (equivalent to approximately US$300,000) in initial funding as part of a five-year initiative that supports the Strategy and Action Plan for Rhino Conservation, particularly for Javan Rhinos. The major focus of the program includes population protection, habitat rehabilitation, harmonious co-existence of Rhinos and the community, and research. APP will also support the National Park's Patrol Unit that strengthens forest security, and support monitoring of the existing population using video camera traps.
Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP) is brand umbrella for paper products manufactured by a number of mills in Indonesia, inter alia PT. Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper Tbk, PT. Pindo Deli Pulp and Paper Mills, PT. Pabrik Kertas Tjiwi Kimia Tbk, PT. Lontar Papyrus Pulp & Paper Industries, PT. Ekamas Fortuna and PT. The Univenus. APP is headquartered in Indonesia and markets its products to over 120 countries. The majority of APP's production facilities hold Chain-of-Custody certification from LEI and PEFC.
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Ujung Kulon National Park
Ujung Kulon, managed by the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, was Indonesia's first proposed national park and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. The area contains one of the largest remaining lowland rainforests in Java and protects 57 rare species of plants and 35 mammal species.
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