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Poachers arrested after 'disturbing' killing of critically endangered rhinos: 'A serious crime'

"It is essential that [the poachers] are prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

"It is essential that [the poachers] are prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Photo credit: iStock

Though two of their rings are being dismantled, poachers could spell the end for the Javan rhino.

Just 50 of the rhinoceroses may remain after at least 26 were killed since 2018, CBS News reported in June.

The critically endangered species is just one of five remaining in the world. They are hunted for their horns, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine and for making ornaments, per CBS.

There are other obstacles that must be cleared by the marvelous creatures, whose population in 2022 had bounced back to as many as 76 from just 25 individuals in 1967, according to the International Rhino Foundation. The rhinos, which live in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park, lack genetic diversity and a balanced sex ratio (males outnumber females 2-to-1). Their habitat is at capacity, and it's also prone to natural disasters.

Poaching, however, is the biggest problem. The park has had to increase security and close to visitors because of "attempted poaching incursions," the foundation noted. There has not been a census of the rhinos since 2019, Ujung Kulon Ecotour reported, noting population estimates are unreliable, and the poaching syndicates apparently operated undetected in the park for four years.

Six suspected poachers were arrested by Indonesian authorities last month. Eight others were at large. A leader, Sunendi, who was arrested last year, was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined 100 million rupiah ($6,102) — "the most severe punishment ever imposed for wildlife crimes in the country," according to the conservation-based tourism company. The verdict was so harsh because he was also charged with firearms possession.

An intermediary who bought the horns from the poachers is on trial, per CBS.

"Poaching of protected animals is a serious crime and is of international concern," said Rasio Ridho Sani, the director general of law enforcement for the Forestry and Environment Ministry, which helped apprehend the alleged criminals. "We are working closely with the Banten Regional Police to search and arrest the perpetrators of animal poaching crimes who managed to escape during the operation."

Save the Rhino noted that the Javan rhino has been relegated to the island for the last 14 years, after the last of its species outside of Indonesia was poached at Cát Tiên National Park in Vietnam. The beings are solitary and may live 30-40 years.

"It is essential that [the poachers] are prosecuted to the full extent of the law and that agencies collaborate in investigating and dismantling the networks responsible for transporting the rhino horns onto the black market in China," Save the Rhino CEO Jo Shaw said.

"... Despite this very disturbing setback, we do have hope. We know that Javan rhinos are still breeding, with a new calf spotted earlier this year on a camera trap. One birth doesn't make up for the rhinos lost, but it shows that with effective protection, we can enable the population growth that this species desperately needs."

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