The Asian Rhino Project, South and South-East Asia
(1) Sumatran rhino © Kerry Crosbie
To provide funding for on-ground operations to conserve the three rhino species across South-East Asia
There are three Asian rhino species: the Javan (Rhinoceros sondaicus), the Sumatran (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) and the Indian or Greater one-horned (Rhinoceros unicornis) rhinos. All three species are listed in the World Conservation Union's (IUCN) latest Red List of Threatened Species. The first two species are critically endangered, there are only about 60 Javan rhinos left at the Ujung Kulon National Park in western Java, and there is another tiny population occurring in and around the Cat Loc Nature Reserve in the Dong Nai region of Viet Nam. The number of Sumatran rhinos has declined from about 600 animals in 1994 to around only 300 today. The Indian rhinoceros, with an extant population of about 2'400 animals in the wild, once existed across the entire northern part of the Indian subcontinent from Pakistan to the Indian-Burmese border, including parts of Nepal and Bhutan. It may also have occurred in Myanmar, southern China, and Indochina. It is estimated that the species totalled 500'000 individuals in the 15th Century. The Indian rhino is now restricted to a few small subpopulations in north-eastern India and in Nepal. Although numbers have increased, its future is still far from secure and it continues to be rated endangered by IUCN.
Poaching is the primary threat to the rhinos. For instance at least 34 rhinos were poached in the Chitwan Valley in Nepal between July 1998 and August 2001. The rhinos were shot with firearms, speared, captured in concealed pits, poisoned or electrocuted by power lines deliberately lowered onto the regular paths of the rhinos and other wildlife. In India reports reveal a unusually high poaching rate in 1998/99, resulting in the deaths of 35 rhinos.
The rhinos are primarily poached for their horns which are highly valued for the production of dagger handles and, despite being made simply of hair-like keratin, medicinal remedies. powdered rhino horn, processed into pills, herbal treatments and tonics, has been used for centuries in traditional oriental medicine as a cure for everything from fevers and nose bleeds to measles, diphtheria, food poisoning and, regionally, as an aphrodisiac. The trade of rhino horns mainly to China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and other countries with major ethnic Chinese communities, is highly prolific, despite being illegal in the terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the national legislation of the range states.
Another threat is habitat degradation, fragmentation and destruction as a result of expanding human populations. Increased legal and illegal logging, and agricultural encroachment, have had and continue to have a devastating effect on the natural habitat for rhinos and many other species.
Zoos of the WAZA Network maintain an ex situ population of about 150 Indian rhinos and keep a very few Sumatran rhinos. Twenty-two Javan Rhinos were formerly kept in human care, the last of which died in 1907. There are International Studbooks under the auspices of WAZA for the Indian rhinoceros (since 1966) kept at Basel Zoo (Switzerland) and for the Sumatran rhinoceros (since 1986) kept at The Wilds (USA). While in the case of the Sumatran rhino only two youngsters were born at Cincinnati Zoo, the vast majority of the Indian rhinos in human care are born in zoos. No Javan rhinos are currently kept world wide.
The conservation of Asian rhinos in the wild is a high priority under the WAZA in situ Conservation Strategy adopted in 2001 at the Perth Annual Conference. Many individual zoos and zoo consortia are in volved in, or support, Asian rhino in situ conservation efforts, and in 2006 the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) has launched a Europe-wide Rhino Conservation Campaign.
The mission of the Asian Rhino Project is to raise awareness and provide support fort the conservation of the tree endangered Asian rhinoceros species. Asian Rhino Project Inc. (ARP) is able to do this through actively seeking funding from donors, corporate sponsors and memberships, the sales of merchandise and funds raised through events and educational programs. These funds contribute to programs both in situ and ex situ through partnerships formed with non-profit conservation organisations in the field as well as ARP initiatives.
ARP is very fortunate to currently receive funding for all administrative costs from a single donor ensuring that 100% of donations and funds are directly committed to the conservation of these flagship species.
ARP has provided, and in some cases continues to provide funding for the following on-ground operations:
WAZA Conservation Project 05027 is implemented by Asian Rhino Project Inc. with the support of Perth Zoo, the Australasian Society of Zookeepers (ASZK), the Australian Regional Association of Zoological Parks/Aquaria (ARAZPA), and in partnership with International Rhino Foundation, SOS Rhino, SAVE Foundation of Australia, and Save the Rhino International.
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(1) Sumatran rhino © Kerry Crosbie