Javan rhinoceros

Vietnamese Javan rhinoceros bathing, Vietnam.
© WWF Greater Mekong
The Javan rhino is probably the rarest large mammal on the planet, with no more than 50 left in the wild and none in captivity.
Its small population size and likely isolation to one protected area in Indonesia make it extremely vulnerable to any threat.

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 / ©: / Andy Rouse / WWF
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© / Andy Rouse / WWF


In October 2011 it was confirmed that the Javan rhino in Vietnam is extinct.

A dead Javan rhino was found in April 2010 with a single bullet in its leg and its horn removed. A collection of 22 seperate dung samples gathered in a survey of Cat Tien National Park in 2009-2010 were analysed and all came from this single rhino. (Download the full report of the study here).

Habitat loss played a key role in sealing the fate of the rhino in Vietnam, and without adequate law enforcement and effective management of protected areas other species such as the tiger and the Asian elephant could also disappear from the wild in Vietnam.

Video: Vietnamese Javan Rhino - Road to Extinction


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Key Facts

  • Common Names

    Javan rhinoceros, lesser one-horned rhino; Rhinocéros de la Sonde (Fr); Rinoceronte de Java (Sp)

  • Scientific Name

    Rhinoceros sondaicus

  • Location

    Western Indonesia

  • Status

    Critically Endangered


  • Population

    Fewer than 50 in Ujung Kulon National Park, Java, Indonesia

Physical description

The Javan rhino is very similar in appearance to the closely related greater one-horned rhinoceros, but has a much smaller head, a slightly smaller overall size, and looser, less apparent skin folds.

The species has a single horn of about about 25 cm. Recent evidence suggests that the horn may be absent or very small in females.

The upper lip is pointed and can be used to grasp food and bring it to the mouth.

Size: 2-4m long, up to 170cm in height, and weighing 900-2,300kg

Colour: Dusky grey
Javan rhino caught in photo trap. / ©: WWF / Mike BALTZER
Javan rhino caught in photo trap.

Needed: water, mud wallows and fruit

Javan rhinos inhabit rainforests with a good supply of water and mud wallows. Low-lying areas are preferred, although some animals have been recorded above 1,000m in Java, Indonesia.

Social structure
The Javan rhino is solitary, except when pairs form for mating and when mothers tend their young.

Life cycle
Lifespan is unknown, but is probably about 30-40 years.

Not much is known about the breeding biology of this species, as it has never bred in captivity. It is thought that, like the greater one-horned rhino, females mature at 5-6 years and males at 10 years. The mating season occurs roughly from July to November, and the gestation period is unknown, but probably about 16 months - similar to the greater one-horned rhinoceros.

The Javan rhino appears to be a more adaptable feeder than other extant rhino species. In the tropical rainforest where the species now survives, it is a pure browser, but possibly was a mixed feeder (both browse and grass) in other parts of its historic range where the species is generally believed to have occupied more lowland areas, especially along watercourses.

Video playlist: Javan rhinoceros


Major habitat type
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Biogeographic realm

Range States
Indonesia, Vietnam (now extinct)

Geographical Location
Western Indonesia, Eastern Indochina

Ecological Region
Western Java Mountain Forests, Indochina Dry Forests
River in the tropical rainforest of the Ujung Kulon National Park. Java, Indonesia / ©: Alain Compost / WWF
River in the tropical rainforest of the Ujung Kulon National Park. Java, Indonesia
© Alain Compost / WWF

Population & distribution

Previous population & distribution
The Javan rhino historically roamed from north-eastern India through Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam, and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java.

Historically there were three subspecies:
  • Indonesian Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus sondaicus)
  • Vietnamese Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus)
  • Rhinoceros sondaicus inermis
Most Javan rhino populations, and at least one species (R. s. inermis, once found in Bengal, Assam and Myanmar), have disappeared in the last 150 years.

Current population & distribution
Until recently, only one population of one subspecies was known to survive: fewer than 50 Indonesian Javan rhinos on the Ujung Kulon peninsula in western Java, Indonesia. The population appears stable, but not growing.

The Vietnamese Javan rhino was feared extinct until the 1980s, when a population of less then 10 animals was discovered clinging to survival in an unprotected forest in Vietnam. The area later became Cat Tien National Park.

However, after a poaching incident in 2010, the Javan rhino is now officially extinct in Vietnam.

It is possible that other scattered remnant populations exist in Thailand and Indochina.
 / ©: Charles te Mechelen
Young, dead Javan rhinoceros in Ujung Kulon, Indonesia.
© Charles te Mechelen

What are the main threats?

Only one or two small populations of Javan rhino remain. This makes the species extremely vulnerable to extinction due to natural catastrophes, diseases, poaching, political disturbances, and genetic drift. The biology of the species is poorly understood, with techniques for accurately estimating their numbers not fully developed. 

Hunting & poaching

Javan rhinos were widely killed by trophy hunters during colonial times. They were also killed as agricultural pests and for their horn, a highly prized commodity in traditional Asian medicine. 

Poaching remains an ever-present threat – and ultimately wiped out the Vietnamese subspecies in 2010.

Habitat loss and degradation

Another threat to the Javan rhino is habitat loss caused by commercial logging and forest conversion for agriculture.

While the Indonesian Javan rhino population lives within a national park, surrounding forests are under pressure from human activities. 

Reduced genetic diversity

The small size of the Javan rhino population is in itself a cause for concern. Low genetic diversity could make it hard for the species to survive diseases or natural disasters like volcano eruptions or earthquakes.


What is WWF doing?

As early as 1962, WWF pioneered scientific research on these rare animals with the expertise of Dr. Rudolph Schenkel.

Today, we conduct ongoing research on the Javan rhino in Indonesia, which continues to reveal critical information on behavioural patterns, distribution, movement, population size, sex ratio and genetic diversity.

We also support anti-poaching patrols in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park.

In addition, in Ujung Kulon National Park we are supporting habitat management in the hope that the existing environment can maintain a larger population.

These efforts include reducing threats from encroachment and illegal extractions, reducing Javan rhino competition with banteng (wild cattle), and studies to increase the availability of the species' natural food supply by halting and reducing the invasion of Arenga palm.

In the coming years, WWF and its partners will look at the possibility of translocating rhinos from Ujung Kulon National Park to establish a new population in other suitable habitat, security permitting.

 / ©: WWF Singapore
Jebsen & Jessen SEA 2010 is ready to track and monitor the Javan Rhinos at Ujung Kulon National Park
© WWF Singapore

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