Smaller than its cousin the Indian rhinoceros, the Javan rhinoceros is about 10 feet long, four to six feet tall, and weighs anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 lbs. It has only one horn, used to scratch away mud in wallows, tug on plants for eating, and carve paths through dense vegetation. Like all rhinos, it has a superior sense of smell and hearing, but very poor vision. The Javan rhino's hairless, mottled gray-brown skin cascades in folds to its shoulder, back and rump, and has a natural mosaic pattern.
Perhaps the most endangered mammal on Earth, scientists estimate that fewer than 60 Javan rhinos live in the wild today. Thought to survive in only in the Ujung Kulon National Park on the western tip of Java, Javan rhinos once ranged widely through India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The Javan rhino was declared extinct in Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam in October 2011, after the last individual was found shot by poachers. Historically Javan rhinos have shown preference for low-lying areas, inhabiting dense lowland rain forests, tall grass, and reed beds abundant with wide floodplains, rivers, or wet areas dotted with mud wallows.
An herbivore, the Javan rhino eats a wide variety of plants, particularly their shoots, twigs, and fallen fruit. It prefers plants that flourish in sunny areas like forest clearings and shrub land, which it grasps with its prehensile upper lip. The Javan rhino is the most adaptable feeder of all rhinos, and needs salt in its diet, like its relative the Sumatran rhino.
During the Vietnam War, the defoliant Agent Orange destroyed much of the Javan rhino's forest habitat. Agricultural conversion contributed to additional habitat loss, though it is no longer a significant factor as the rhino now occupies only protected territory. These losses, as well poaching for its horn, have nearly wiped out the rhino. The horns have been trafficked in China for more than two millennia, where they are valued in traditional medicine for reported healing powers. According to surveys of the black market for rhino horn, Asian horns command a price up to $30,000 per kilogram.
- Jukofsky, Diane. Encyclopedia of Rainforests. Connecticut: Oryx Press, 2002.
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
- WWF: Javan Rhinoceros: Rare, Mysterious and Highly Threatened
- Photo by Gursharan Singh