March 5, 2009

Rare Rhino Caught On Video In Indonesia

The conservation group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has released the world's first footage of the extremely rare Java rhino near Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park.

The grainy infrared footage portrays a rhino mother and calf and a male wallowing in mud holes. Fewer than 60 Java rhinos are said to be in existence.

Conservationists said the footage exhibits new behaviors of the rare creatures.

"These rhinos are very shy. In the last 20 years our team has only seen rhinos two or three times with their own eyes," WWF Asian rhino coordinator Christy Williams told AFP.

Their shyness is what has made them difficult to capture on film, Williams said. WWF has had still cameras in place in before, but the rhinos are often scared away by the shutter, or they attacked the cameras.

Researchers installed 34 cameras equipped with infrared triggers that cause them only to take footage when motion is sensed.

"The videos are showing a lot of young animals but not many calves so even though there is evidence of breeding it is not enough," Williams said.

"A healthy rhino population should be increasing at about seven percent a year or about three or four calves, but here we are getting three or four calves every four or five years."

Adhi Rachmat Hariyadi, who leads WWF-Indonesia's project in Ujung Kulon, said the team has retrieved footage of nine Java rhinos, including a mother and a calf.

"We are concerned because we have not seen many very young calves in Ujung Kulon National Park for several years and worry that the population may be dependent on two or three breeding females," he said.

Weighing up to 5,070 pounds and measuring more than 10 feet in length, the Javan rhinoceros has been protected since 1931 in Indonesia, according to WWF.


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