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The Asian Rhino Specialist Group (AsRSG) actively plays an important role in the conservation of all three Asian rhino species: the Javan Rhino, Sumatran Rhino and the Indian Rhino. AsRSG has helped to secure a grant for $2 million over three years from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Through the United Nations Development Program, these much needed funds are being used to establish and support anti-poaching teams and community outreach programs for the critically endangered Sumatran rhino in Indonesia and Malaysia. A mobile unit and 9 teams have been recruited, trained and deployed in Indonesia. A similar number of teams are in the field in Malaysia. More support is needed now and especially in two years when the one-time GEF fund concludes. The IRF provides program office services for the AsRSG. Drs. Tom Foose and Nico van Strien are the Program Officers.

Mr. Mohd Khan, Chairman
No. 10, Jalan Bomoh
off Jalan Keramat Hujong
54200 Kuala Lumpur

Newsletter of the IUCN SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group

AsRSG Action Plan

The Action Plan provides the latest estimates of numbers and assessment of status for the 3 species of Asian rhinos: the Indian, the Javan, and the Sumatran. The Plan also presents a general strategy and specific actions for Asian rhino conservation including 36 specific project proposals with estimated costs. It contains 8 maps of rhino distribution past and present and 15 photographs of rhinos and conservation activities for them.

Below is the AsRSG Action Plan's Executive Summary for the Asian Rhino. Click on the cover to download the full contents of the Action plan in a downloadable pdf file. This file is in a Adobe Acobat format. If your browser does not read this format you will need the Acrobat reader. The size of the Action plan file is 2Mb. The AsRSG Action Plan is available from:

IUCN Publications Services Unit
219c Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB2 0DL, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1223 277894, Fax: +44 1223 277175
E-mail: iucn-psu@wcmc.org.uk

Executive Summary

There are three species of Asian rhino: the Indian or greater one-horned Asian rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis); the Javan or lesser one-horned Asian rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus); and the Sumatran or Asian two-horned rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis). The Indian rhino is, along with the African white rhino, the second largest living species of land mammal and inhabits riverine grasslands in India and Nepal. The Javan rhino is in the same genus as the Indian rhino but is a smaller species and inhabits tropical forests but particularly along water courses. The Sumatran rhino is the smallest of all rhino species and inhabits the most dense habitat in tropical forests. Both the Indian and Javan rhinos are one-horned while the Sumatran rhino has two horns, similar to the African rhino species. The Sumatran rhino is also known as the hairy rhinoceros and is closely related to the woolly rhino that inhabited Eurasia during the Ice Ages. The Indian rhino is a grazer similar to the African white rhino. The Sumatran rhino is a browser similar to the African black rhino. The Javan rhino is a mixed feeder.

Historically, all three species were abundant and rather widely distributed in Asia through at least the middle of the 19th century. The Indian occurred all along the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra River Basins; earlier it was even more broadly distributed even into southern India. The Javan occurred from eastern India throughout the rest of mainland South East Asia and on the islands of Sumatra and Java. The Sumatran rhino also extended from eastern India through mainland South East Asia and on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

Currently, all three species are threatened with extinction, two critically so, as assessed by the new IUCN Red List Categories.

  • The Sumatran rhino is the most critically endangered of all rhino species with a population of 250–400 distributed fragmentarily in Sumatra, Peninsula Malaysia, and Sabah. Remnants may survive in Sarawak, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos but their existence is unconfirmed and the viability of any populations unlikely.
  • The Javan rhino is the rarest of all rhino species with fewer than 100 individuals estimated to survive, most in a single protected area in Indonesia; a few in an unprotected area in Vietnam.
  • The Indian rhino is the success story in Asian rhino conservation with over 2000 individuals in India and Nepal. This population has recovered from very low numbers comparable to the current situation for the Sumatran and even Javan. However, threats to this species are significant and only continued and increased protection will enable survival.

The critical situation for Asian rhinos is emphasized by the fact that the number of all three Asian species combined is approximately equal to or perhaps slightly fewer than the rarer of the two African rhino species, the black rhino, which has received much more publicity over the last decade.

As in Africa, poaching for the horn is the major threat to Asian rhinos. Poaching is significant for all three species and is still rampant on the Sumatran rhino. The primary demand for the horn is its use in traditional Chinese medicine throughout the Far East. Asian rhino horn also appears to be a speculator’s commodity in several consumer states.

Habitat degradation is also a significant threat, more so than for the African rhinos since two of the Asian species are denizens of tropical rainforest which continues to decrease in extent. Forest habitat is being destroyed through unsustainable exploitation of timber and conversion of land to agriculture and other human uses.

Immediately, the major requirement for Asian rhino conservation is increased protection in situ through core areas similar to the intensive protection zones and sanctuaries that have been successful in Africa.

Managed breeding remains a potential tool for Asian rhino conservation and is successful for the Indian rhino. However, traditional captive propagation methods have not succeeded for Sumatran rhino and have not been tried for Javan rhino. Attempts are under development to establish managed breeding centers in native habitat at least for the Sumatran and perhaps for the Javan rhino to assist in their protection and conservation.

Ultimately, major requirements for rhino conservation are:

  • cessation of the illegal trade in rhino horn and products
  • stabilization, extension, and improvement of rhino habitat
  • recovery of rhino populations to viable levels
  • support of local communities for and hence benefit to local communities from rhino conservation

Significant funds are required both from governmental and nongovernmental sources, both inside and outside range states, if Asian rhinos are to be conserved from extinction. A rigorously defined set of projects with estimated costs has been prepared to indicate the actions and support required. The total cost of these projects is approximately US$ 33 Million for the period 1996–2000.

Ideally, rhino conservation would become financially sustainable and self-sufficient obviating dependence on the vagaries of donor support. At least one program is in progress and others are under discussion to try to generate such self-sustaining income.

This Action Plan is available from:
IUCN Publications Services Unit
219c Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB2 0DL, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1223 277894, Fax: +44 1223 277175
E-mail: iucn-psu@wcmc.org.uk

£13.50 or $20.00 + postage & packing (20% overseas surface, 30% Europe air, 40% overseas air).

A catalogue of IUCN publications is also available.

Title: Asian Rhinos: An Action Plan for Their Conservation

Authors: Asian Rhino Specialist Group:
Mohd Khan bin Momin Khan, Chair
S.C. Dey and Effendy Sumardja, Deputy Chairs
Thomas J. Foose Ph.D. and Nico van Strien Ph.D. Program Officers

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