The carcass of a critically endangered Javan rhino had been found in West Java, conservationists said on Monday, bringing the world’s scarcest mammal one step closer to extinction.
The remains of the male rhino were found two weeks ago in Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java, home to the species’ last viable population of less than 50, experts said.
Rhino Foundation of Indonesia head Widodo Ramono said the animal could have died during the rainy season around February to March. Its horn was intact, meaning it probably was not killed by poachers, he said.
“There were no signs that it had been killed or poisoned. We suspect it could have died from an illness or, since it was partly submerged in water when it died, it could have drowned,” he added.
The Javan rhino is distinguished from African rhinos by its small size, single horn and loose skin folds. Rhino horns are used in traditional Chinese and Korean medicine although most Asian countries have banned the trade.
Around 44 Javan rhinos are believed to live in Ujung Kulon, an oasis of wilderness on the western edge of one of the world’s most densely populated islands.
Another four or so are found in Vietnam’s Cat Loc reserve, where a rhino was killed by poachers last month.
No one knows the exact numbers but the results of a survey of the rhino population in Ujung Kulon are expected by the end of the week, Ramono said.
“The survey’s almost completed. We’ve placed 60 camera-traps around the park and we’re now collating the data to verify the numbers,” he said.