Recently on World Environment Day, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia declared 2012 the International Year of the Rhino in order to encourage more action to protect this critically endangered animal. I’d like to take a moment to recognize this positive step for Javan Rhino protection and update you on Asia Pulp & Paper’s (APP) initiatives to support this effort.
Over the years, APP has partnered with the Ujung Kulon National Park to help save the critically endangered Javan Rhino and our collective efforts are working. In April 2012, we reported that the fight to save the Javan Rhino from extinction is on track to support the government’s target of increasing the existing population in Ujung Kulon National Park by 50 percent over the next five years.
To achieve this goal, my colleagues collaborate with The Javan Rhino Conservation Working Group (CWG) in order to protect the natural habitat of the Javan Rhino and reduce human interference and poaching. As part of CWG, we work with park experts, local NGOs and academics to help shed light on the fascinating and secretive ways of the Javan Rhino. Due to their shy nature, we’ve learned that the best way to help the Javan Rhino is to give it the space and privacy it needs to feel comfortable and secure.
Getting a glimpse into the world of the Javan Rhino is a very rare experience, which is why this video from camera feeds within the rhino habitat is so encouraging. It shows a Javan Rhino community of approximately 35 rhinos, with several new juveniles making appearances. At the 53-second mark, you can make out a baby rhino following its mother in the dark.
CWG and APP believe that saving the Javan Rhino from extinction requires a strategic focus on three factors:
1. Economic development
2. Social progress
3. Habitat enhancement
Since its inception, the CWG has made progress on all fronts through community development programs, education and habitat restoration.
For example, there are 15 different communities near Ujung Kulon in western Java, and our best chance at preserving the rhino habitat is to enable these communities to support themselves and live sustainably without depleting the natural resources found in the habitat.
In the past year, CWG has implemented many community development projects that educate villagers on sustainable and organic farming and alternative food source cultivation in the sea rather than the forest. One project brought workers together to construct a 3.4-kilometer bamboo piping installation that brings fresh water to communities surrounding the habitat. We also teach skills such as making handcrafted carvings and other goods to sell as a source of income.
In addition to community development, it is important to monitor and enhance the rhino habitat. For example, CWG just expanded a pre-existing program to eradicate Langkap (Arenga obtusifolia) — a dominant and invasive species that can diminish the existence of many types of native plants that are essential to the rhino’s diet.
This is an extremely fulfilling endeavor, and APP is thankful to the Ministry of Forestry for involving us. I hope that the International Year of the Rhino will bring together global support in hopes of saving one of the rarest mammals in the world, the Javan Rhino.