Oct. 28, 2011, noonView more articles
The last known Javan Rhinoceros in Vietnam has been found dead, its manner of demise suggesting that it fell prey to poachers who had hunted the animals for their precious horns as a highly prized ingredient in traditional medicines.
The unfortunate discovery means that the only known remaining group of Javan Rhinocerous’ in the wild are to be found in Java itself, where they number around 40-60 animals. The population of the Vietnam group was last counted at 8 animals in 2007. It is possible that they were either all too old to breed, or that the tiny population was single sex.
Before the discovery of this group and following the report of another dead rhino in 1988, the species was already thought to be extinct in Vietnam and were placed under legal protection in the mid 1990s, but unfortunately that did not stop poachers. The last tracking of the rhino herd in 2010 was carried out using sniffer dogs to search for dung. DNA analysis revealed that all of it came from a single animal, which was found dead shortly after the survey was completed. De-forestation, disease and poaching are listed as the primary causes of the loss of the rhinoceros in Vietnam, where the increasingly fragile forest structure is also pushing other species to the verge of extinction.
Extinction is viewed as a natural part of the evolutionary process, and it is estimated that only 2-4% of species that have ever lived can be found on Earth today. However, biodiversity experts have warned for some time that human activity is driving animals and plants to extinction faster than any new species can evolve or breed.
In 2004 an IUCN report cited fossil records suggesting that the rate of extinction had increased by as much as 1000 times since before humans were present on Earth. The evolution of animal species to their changing habitats due to both natural and artificial causes is always occurring, but the discrepancy between the rate at which the two are occurring is linked to the alarming rate of species loss.
The list of critically endangered animals is currently numbered at 2079 different species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.