Rhinos and Human Co-Existence
Rhinoceros conservation in Indonesia is as much about biology as it is about human activities. Students traveling to Indonesia experience the complex factors driving species loss in a biodiverse environment. One of the most pressing landscape-level changes impacts the health of these rare forest rhinos. Infectious disease is an increasingly potent conservation threat to rhinos, causing local extirpation, modulating community dynamics, and decreasing host ranges.
And disease may be one of the most significant risks facing the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) in Ujung Kulon National Park (UKNP) of Java, Indonesia. The Javan rhino population is highly susceptible to the stochastic effects of disease: the population size is small (27-44 individuals); it is sympatric with putative reservoir hosts such as water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) and banteng (Bos javanicus); and multi-host vector-borne pathogens are known to cause high mortality in naïve species, including Asian rhinos.
Parasites and pathogens have been identified in water buffalo from villages in the park and implicated in die-offs of Sumatran rhinos, yet information regarding basic biology is rare in the region. The threat posed to the Javan rhino population by disease is thus poorly characterized.