Spelling for: Rhinoceros. In recent decades the rhinoceros has been relentlessly hunted to the point of near extinction. Enjoy!
Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species represent a disproportionate amount of unique evolutionary history. They have few close relatives, are often the only surviving member of their genus, and sometimes the last surviving genus of their evolutionary family. Some EDGE species, such as elephants and pandas, are well known and already receive considerable conservation attention, but many others, such as the Vaquita (the world’s rarest cetacean) the bumblebee bat (arguably the world’s smallest mammal) and the egg-laying long-beaked echidnas are highly threatened yet remain poorly understood and are frequently overlooked by existing conservation frameworks. Recent research indicates that 70% of the world’s most threatened and evolutionarily distinct mammal species are currently receiving little or no conservation attention. If these species are not highlighted and conserved we will not only lose many of the world’s unique species and a disproportionate amount of biodiversity, but we may also greatly reduce the potential for future evolution. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has launched a new global conservation initiative, the EDGE of Existence Programme to raise awareness and funds for the conservation of these species.
Rhinoceroses in ancient China
The Javan rhinoceros (more precisely Sunda rhinoceros) or lesser one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is a member of the family Rhinocerotidae and one of five extant rhinoceroses. It belongs to the same genus as the Indian rhinoceros, and has similar mosaicked skin which resembles armour, but at 3.1–3.2 m (10–10.5 feet) in length and 1.4–1.7 m (4.6–5.8 ft) in height, it is smaller (in fact, it is closer in size to the black rhinoceros of the genus Diceros). Its horn is usually less than 25 cm (10 inches), smaller than those of the other rhino species.
Once the most widespread of Asian rhinoceroses, the Javan rhinoceros ranged from the islands of Java and Sumatra, throughout Southeast Asia, and into India and China. The species is critically endangered, with only one known population in the wild, and no individuals in captivity. It is possibly the rarest large mammal on earth,:21 with a population of as few as 40 in Ujung Kulon National Park at the western tip of Java in Indonesia. A second population in Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam was confirmed as extinct in 2011. The decline of the Javan rhinoceros is attributed to poaching, primarily for their horns, which are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine, fetching as much as US$30,000 per kilogramme on the black market.:31 Loss of habitat, especially as the result of wars, such as the Vietnam War, in Southeast Asia, has also contributed to the species' decline and hindered recovery. The remaining range is within one nationally protected area, but the rhinos are still at risk from poachers, disease and loss of genetic diversity leading to inbreeding depression.
The existence of rhinoceroses in ancient China is attested both by archaeological evidence and by references in ancient Chinese literature. Depictions of rhinoceroses in ancient Chinese art are typically very accurate and lifelike, suggesting that they were modelled first-hand by the artist on living rhinoceroses rather than being based on legend or traveller's tales. The main species of rhinoceros that lived in China in ancient times has been identified as the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), although it is possible that the Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) was also present.
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