On 29th April a carcass of a Javan Rhino was found in the area where we had been doing our survey.
Read more about it here and with additional information also here
Samples are being sent for DNA analysis so that we can determine if this was one of the rhinos whose dung we collected, and therefore how many living rhinos this leaves us with.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
During the survey, as time went on, we became increasingly aware of the fragile existence of this rhino population. At times we would feel it was truly remarkable that any rhinos still remain here. With an ever-expanding human population around the park, signs of people in the forest were usually more frequent than signs of rhino and other wildlife.
The remaining Javan Rhinos in
(however many of them there are) are now restricted to a small 4-5000ha area of forest, almost completely surrounded by agricultural land and human settlements. Vietnam
The amount of habitat which the rhinos can use is still getting smaller. Unprotected forest adjacent to the national park is being cleared every day, primarily for cashew plantations.
Inside the national park, cashew plantations are also being expanded, at the expense of rhino habitat.
Within the area of forest which remains, the rhino is being increasingly restricted to the area which it can use. In the past, the rhinos used to go to the main river in the dry season. However, dams are being built on the river close to the national park, and noisy dredgers line the river – providing the necessary sand for the worrying development projects.
Low lying wet areas are likely to be important to the rhinos, but most of them have now been converted to rice paddies. One valley, important for rhinos and Gaur, has been fenced off to try to prevent domestic cattle using it and spreading disease, but they can still get through the fence.
Even within the national park, the rhino population doesn’t get a lot of peace. Rhinos like to spend the hot days wallowing in mud, or perhaps using streams and rivers. However, particularly in the dry season, hunters set up camp close to wallows, because animals are concentrated there. In the last three months we found and destroyed a new hunting camp each time we visited one particular wallow which the rhinos had been regularly using before the hunters moved in.
Evidence of people camping at wallows and making fires there is easy to find. Hunting dogs are also used quite frequently, to chase and capture whatever animal they find. We would always know when dogs had been in an area recently as our dung dogs would go crazy peeing on every nearby tree!
People also catch fish along rivers, or set traps such as this one in the photo below to catch fish, amphibians and reptiles such as this Banded Krait. This causes more disturbance in important rhino areas. Along some rivers we found a hunting and fishing camp every 500 meters, this one was still smoking.
Hunters set snares to catch animals. These snares were removed on one days survey in November. Even if not intended for the rhinos, these snares could mortally wound one. On our last visit to the forest we found a large cable snare, like the one in the center of this photo, positioned over a trail close to a popular rhino wallow.
People visit the forest for many reasons, not just to hunt animals. Although activities such as honey collecting is not a direct threat to the rhinos, the presence of people cutting and burning trees, often close to wallows to remove honey causes additional disturbance. Here, Mr. Nga (one of our local guides) examines a tree which had been felled to collect honey, and Mr. Ngoc reprimands some people caught in the act.
People chop down trees in the national park for a number of reasons, both for timber, and to obtain fruit. These trees were felled so that fruit could be collected from them, whilst the palms, which grow in swamps regularly used by the rhinos, are felled for their fronds.
With a decreasing area of suitable habitat and ongoing disturbance, the remaining Vietnamese rhinos do not get a lot of peace. The results of the survey will be so important for determining how to truly conserve this unique animal, if indeed it is not already too late…
Watch this space for news of the number of Vietnamese rhinos, when we get the DNA results!
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Chevy worked with Simon throughout the survey. He got really excited every time we went into the forest, rolling around on the floor in anticipation of getting his favorite thing, this ball, when he found some rhino dung.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Bruiser worked with Sarah for the second half of the survey. Although he's lying down or cooling off in all of these photos, he was a blur of fur when he was working!
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Although we are surveying for rhinos, we aren’t exactly tripping over them on a daily basis. Trees are the things we see the most. We trip over the ones we don’t see. Most trees are fairly ho hum, although Junaidi opened our eyes a little and we can now identify two tree families (some of the time). I now know that this is a very large Dipterocarp:
This tree is far from run of the mill – it has been climbed by a bear!
Before we began the survey, people who had been to the study site had told us all about the vast expanses of rattan and bamboo. But very few of them mentioned the ridges which had not been sprayed by so much defoliant, where beautiful broadleaved evergreen forest remains.
I can’t think of much to say about these last few pictures, so just look at the pretty trees.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
We couldn’t have done our survey without the assistance of national park and forest protection department staff, and local people. Mr. in particular knows the forests better than most of the people at the national park, and came on almost every field trip. Here he is in the white t-shirt translating for us so that we could interview some local people.
We haven’t always been able to work the pictures of these invaluable people into our blogs, so here we give you a few more of them. Many thanks to everyone who helped on the rhino survey!