Video traps to monitor Javanese rhinos in West Java’s Ujung Kulon National Park are helping conservation groups protect one of the country’s most threatened animals.
The 30 motion-triggered infrared video traps were installed by World Wildlife Fund Indonesia and park officials in January.
The rare species is only found in Ujung Kulon, and the population, currently hovering on the brink of extinction, is limited to just a few dozen due to hunting and shrinking habitat.
Footage from the cameras has shed new light on rhino behaviors such as eating, mating and wallowing.
WWF rhino monitoring officer Adji Santoso said observers “are able to see how they react when encountering other animals, such as wild boars, and how they are able to share the same mud hole with the boars.”
Since they were installed, the video cameras have recorded four pairs of mother and calf.
“This is a highlight for the WWF because it shows the population is reproducing, though not as fast as we hoped,” said Adhi Rahmat Hariyadi, project leader of WWF Indonesia at the park. “But, at least they are breeding.”
WWF Indonesia hopes to distribute the rhino population to areas outside of the Ujung Kulon to safeguard the species, which is currently limited to the park.
“We have no backup location, which is not healthy from the perspective of conservation,” Adhi said. “If they are only based in Ujung Kulon, potential disasters and epidemics may wipe out the entire population.”
Researchers say data about the species’ behavioral patterns would help the WWF relocate some of the animals.