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Rhinos need to get in on the act

TIME and space are running out for the Javan Rhinoceros -- the most endangered mammal in the world.

There are fewer than 60 left in the wild -- almost all in one Indonesian national park ?? and numbers appear to be declining for the first time in decades because of low birthrates, said Christy Williams, the WWF's Asian Rhino Specialist.

"We need to take immediate, urgent action to try to move some of these rhinos to another suitable site, either on Java or Sumatra island," he said yesterday.

"If we don't act quickly I think we could lose this population."

The Javan rhino weighs 2,300 kilograms and measures more than 3 meters in length.

About 50 live in Ujung Kulon National Park but it appears that only three of the females are breeding continuously, said Adhi Rachmat Hariyadi, who leads WWF-Indonesia's project in the park.

As a result, an average of one calf is born every year - near to the number of animals dying, and four times fewer than would be needed to sustain a healthy, growing rhino population, according to experts.

Williams said the park may have reached the maximum number of rhinos it can support and the animals may also be struggling to compete for scare resources with growing populations of wild cattle.

The government is working with conservation groups to find a suitable second site for the Java rhinos, which would help protect them from catastrophic events such as disease or natural disasters, Williams said.

Researchers say a smaller population of Javan rhinos in Vietnam does not appear to be breeding anymore.


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