Job accomplished – last Vietnamese rhino poached – annamiticus subspecies extinct

When we speak of biodiversity decline we usually prefer to zoom out to get the big picture. Sometimes however reality forces you to stand still and take time to commemorate an individual case.

Once Rhinoceros sondaicus or the Javan rhinoceros was the most wide-spread of Asian rhinoceroses, ranging all the way from Indonesia to India and China.

Today WWF announced the last of the Asian mainland subspecies (annamiticus) has been poached. That’s one more icon down en route to the Holocene Mass Extinction.

Vietnamese Javan rhinoceros extinctHunter over shot Javan rhinoceros, 1895, western Java. Today we’re 116 years further in time – and on that same spot just 40 rhinos remain – the last standing population.

Let’s hope it did at least solve that Chinese man’s impotence

The last Vietnamese rhinos were deliberately poached. The last single individual was found dead with a shot wound in the leg and the horn sawn off. It seems China would do biodiversity a favour if finally it acknowledged their traditional medicine requirements are fully unscientific so the Chinese black market will stop paying ridiculous sums* of money for whatever organs or bones of the most endangered species.

[*) According to a Columbia University researcher who in 2003 has written a book on South East Asian rhino poaching practices Javan rhinoceros horn would fetch as much as 30,000 dollars per kilogram of ivory. At such prices poor Vietnamese farmers are willing to shoot anything.]

Overpopulation, deforestation, poaching: last Asian rhinos

Now only an estimated 40 Javan rhinoceroses remain at the very western tip of the Indonesian island of Java. Meanwhile the Indian rhinoceros (not directly related to the extinct Indian Javan rhino) has been driven from the overpopulated Ganges plains but clings on to the southern slopes of the Himalayas. A third Asian species, the Sumatran Rhinoceros, which is smaller than the Javan rhino, according to the IUCN now number less than 275 individuals, scattered over 6 isolated and unconnected pockets on Sumatra and Malaysia.

The number of large, wild animals [which causes ecosystem disturbance] is inversely related to human population growth and other human activities. Here we offer an impression of demographic developments in India and China – and another one for Indonesia.

Deforestation is of course the main culprit after direct poaching. Here especially the case of Borneo and Sumatra seems worrisome, which is partly driven by the demand for first generation biofuels, but there are many other driving forces.

Let’s first think of a clever way to not important enormous quantities of palm oil, shall we? After that we should definitely not forget to take a proper look at these weird rainforest droughts – because forest species don’t like savanna.

“A deux pas de mon coeur, tu es déjà si loin”
C’est fini. Goodbye Vietnamese rhinoceros.

© Rolf Schuttenhelm |

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