A critically endangered species of rhino has been poached to extinction in Vietnam, wildlife groups said after the country's last Javan rhino was found dead with its horn hacked off.
The Javan rhinoceros was pronounced extinct in Vietnam by WWF and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) after all dung samples in a 2009 and 2010 survey at Cat Tien National Park – the only known habitat -- were confirmed to have been from the animal.
"The last Javan rhino in Vietnam has gone," said Tran Thi Minh Hien, WWF Vietnam country director. "Vietnam has lost part of its natural heritage."
In a new report, WWF suggests poaching was the likely cause of death for the rhino, which was found in April 2010 with a bullet in its leg and its horn removed in the national park in southern Vietnam, around 160 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City.
The group said ineffective protection by the park was ultimately the cause of the extinction and warned that illegal hunting to supply the wildlife trade threatened the futures of other rare animals in the country.
"The tragedy of the Vietnamese Javan rhinoceros is a sad symbol of this extinction crisis," said Nick Cox of WWF's species programme in the Greater Mekong.
Other species face extinction
He said efforts to protect natural habitat and deter poaching were inadequate to save the Javan rhino in the country and predicted the continued situation will no doubt lead to the extinction of many more species in Vietnam.
The rhinoceros was believed to be extinct on mainland Asia until 1988 when one of the animals was hunted from the Cat Tien area, leading to the discovery of a small population.
Javan rhinos are critically endangered, with barely 50 individuals left in a single group in a small national park in Indonesia.
WWF said Asia's voracious demand for rhino horn for traditional medicine continues to increase every year, meaning protection and expansion of the Indonesian population is the highest priority.
The group said other species on the verge of extinction in Vietnam include the tiger, Asian elephant and Siamese crocodile.
(Sapa, October 2011)