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If we wish to save the Javan rhinoceros, we must work to know it (commentary)

15 / 06 / 2017, Mongabaycom News

Around 4,300 years ago, mainland mammoths had died out and only 300 remained on Wrangel Island off the Siberian coast. Isolated on an island in the Arctic Ocean, these woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) were not only the last of a dying species, they were also swamped with "bad genes." In a recent study, geneticist Rebekah Rogers and biologist Monty Slatkin found that mammals in this isolated population had accumulated multiple harmful genetic mutations, diminishing individual animals' fitness and accelerating the species' descent into extinction. There are few species for which this warning is as relevant as it is for the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus). The last Javan rhino surviving outside of Indonesia was killed by poachers in Vietnam in 2010. Now, the sole — and tiny — population of this Critically Endangered species is confined to a single national park in the Ujung Kulon peninsula at the western tip of Indonesia's Java Island. [caption id="attachment_191163" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Ujung Kulon National Park sits on the southwestern tip of Java. Map created using Map For Environment.[/caption] How many Javan rhinos survive? Reliable assessment of animal populations is a longstanding challenge in wildlife ecology and the Javan rhinoceros is one of the most complex and difficult cases in conservation history. Following recovery from the low point of 25 individuals in the 1960s, the population in Ujung Kulon National Park is believed to have reached about 60 animals by the middle of the 1980s, thanks to the efforts of the Indonesian Park rangers. Since…

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