• Fauzia Haque

War on Rhinos

As of 2011, the Vietnamese strain of the Javan rhinoceros’ population was officially declared to have gone extinct. In April of 2010, the remains of the last Javan rhino was found in the Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam.


Javan rhinos are small, critically endangered one-horned rhinoceroses within Southeast Asia with intricately folded skin that is now reduced to a single, small population in Java. It is a very rare member of the family Rhinocerotidae and is one of the five currently existing species of rhinoceroses. It usually inhabits rainforests, grasslands and floodplains. This mostly hairless breed of rhinoceroses had its population dwindled down to only two known locations: Udjung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia and the Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam, but the latter has just been ruled out.


The Vietnamese War

Today, the population of the Javan rhinoceros has waned down to 72 rhinos exclusive only to Java, Indonesia. The Javan rhinos were thought to be extinct several times after the occurrence of the Vietnam War from 1955 to 1975. The mass destruction and devastation that was inflicted upon the Vietnamese land led numerous Javan rhinos to be displaced and without their habitats for a long period of time. The Cat Tien National Park is a part of the area that was demolished by the project, Agent Orange, and by landmines during the Vietnam War. The Cat Tien National Park was founded upon the very land that Javan rhinos had inhabited, which is 18 million acres of forest put under preservation by Vietnam in 1992.

Agent Orange was a tactic used in the Vietnam War as a strong herbicide to eliminate excess vegetation. The United States military utilized this herbicide as a way to prevent Vietnamese soldiers from hiding under forest cover and to eradicate crops within Northern Vietnam to endanger the troops. The chemical dioxin was used in this herbicide, which put the entire Javan rhino population at risk. Not only did they lose their habitat, their food source was getting severely depleted as a result of human implications. Dioxin was found to cause severe psychological and physical harm while also being carcinogenic in humans alone. In the Javan rhinos, the aftermath of Agent Orange and of the highly toxic group of chemicals found in dioxin led to their downfall as a population in Vietnam. Eventually, due to the impacts of the Vietnam War, natural causes and poaching, the Javan Rhinoceros population in Vietnam had diminished down to one rhino left within the Cat Tien National Park.


The Last Rhino Standing

April 2010 marked the day that the carcass of the last Javan rhino within the localized population of Vietnam in the Cat Tien National Park. Its last rhino was subject to the unfortunate job of poachers, even under nationally protected land. The inadequate protection of the Cat Tien National Park caused the female Javan rhino to go extinct, leaving its only viable population solely in the small national park of Indonesia. Javan rhinos are prized in Vietnam and China for the ability of crushing its horn down into fine powder. The powder is usually sold as a cure for various illnesses. According to the autopsy, the rhino was shot by the poachers a long period of time before her actual demise, but the gunshot by the poachers ultimately led to her unfortunate death.


References

O'connor, A. (1999, July 20). Though Extinct, A Few Javan Rhinos Are Seen in Vietnam. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1999/07/20/science/thought-extinct-a-few-javan-rhinos-are-seen-in-vietnam.html


History.com Editors. (2011, August 02). Agent Orange. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/agent-orange-1


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