After a year-long survey, the World Wildlife Foundation has come to the conclusion that there are no more rhinoceros left in Vietnam. Specifically, the Javan rhino has disappeared from Cat Tien National Park, one of two of its remaining habitats in the world.
The WWF took dung samples from 2009 to 2010 and through genetic analysis they found the 22 samples belonged to a rhino that was found dead in the national preserve in 2010. That rhino was found with a bullet in its leg and with its horn cut off.
This is the second of the three Javan rhino subspecies to be hunted into extinction. The first, the Indian Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus inermis), disappeared more than a century ago. Now only the Indonesian Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus sondaicus) remains alive, and it might not last much longer either. Just 50 or fewer of these animals are thought to exist in Ujung Kulon National Park on the island of Java.
All rhino species worldwide are heavily threatened by rampant poaching for their horns, which are sold for upwards of $30,000 each for use in so-called traditional Asian medicine, even though the horns are of no actual medicinal value. There are two other Asian rhino species: the one-horned Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), which numbers about 3,000 animals in the wild, and the critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), which has two subspecies with a combined population of less than 300 individuals. A third Sumatran rhino subspecies may or may not still exist. In addition, there are two African rhino species: the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)—which includes the southern white rhino (the healthiest rhino subspecies, with more than 17,000 animals) and the northern white rhino, which is now down to its last seven individuals—and the black rhino (Diceros bicornis), with three critically endangered subspecies (two of which are below 1,000 individuals) and a fourth subspecies that was last seen in the year 2000 and is now believed to be extinct.
Part of what makes this news really sad is that the Javan rhino had been thought extinct once before. In 1988, one of them was hunted and that lead to the discovery of a small population in Vietnam. WWF reports that Vietnam and many other organizations made an effort to conserve the species, but in the end, illegal hunting won out.
"The single most important action to conserve Vietnam's endangered species is protecting their natural habitat and deterring poaching and illegal wildlife trade – the report shows that these actions were inadequate to save the Javan rhino in Vietnam and this continued situation will no doubt lead to the extinction of many more species from Vietnam," Nick Cox, of WWF said in a statement. "Vietnam's protected areas need more rangers, better training and monitoring, and more accountability."