What does it mean to lose a species from the earth?
I think it is the loss of a kind of profound beauty. If each person that you meet is special and unique, (I know it sounds sappy, but I’m being sincere here) and their life is valuable and important to protect, then certainly you can extrapolate to each species having something remarkable, unique and important to say about living, survival, and beauty.
Defining beauty is nearly as impossible as defining happiness, and yet when someone tells you that you are beautiful, they are rarely describing solely your physical appearance. There is something compelling and remarkable about each individual and I think the positive, attractive elements of this are often described as beauty. It’s why every parent finds their own child beautiful, (excepting the mentally ill, crap parents of course. I hear you skeptical voices. I say, ‘pooh! pooh!’ to you!)
So the Javan Rhino is disappearing. And we lose a particular form of life that has a particular diet, appearance, life style, movement, texture, color, smell, and so on. Life is a little less bright because of it.
It’s especially distressing to me because visually they are so unlike other animals! They appear to have plates of armor, although it’s just thick skin, and speckled shoulders and rumps that are super cute. The Indian Rhino has a similar armored appearance, but the Javan or Sunda Rhino is smaller.
From National Geographic:
“The Javan rhinoceros is extinct in mainland Asia, conservationists announced this week.
An adult female Javan rhino was shot and killed in a Vietnamese forest last year—leaving just one wild population left of the species in the world, a group of fewer than 50 individuals in a small park in Indonesia. …
But habitat loss and widespread hunting slashed their numbers, so that by the latter half of the 20th century, the animal was believed to be extinct on mainland Asia.
In 1988, a population of 15 or fewer individuals was found in the Cat Tien region of Vietnam. Conservationists were hopeful that this population, though tiny, could recover, based on the success of Africa’s southern white rhino.
Southern white rhinos had been poached to only about 20 individuals by the late 19th century, but due to intense conservation efforts, the population now numbers close to 20,000 animals.
Hopes were dashed, however, when a 2004 survey suggested that the Cat Tien population had been reduced to two individuals, both of them female.”
And now those two are dead, killed for their precious horns.
“Although belonging to the type genus, the Indian and Javan Rhinoceros are not believed to be closely related to other rhino species. … The Sumatran Rhino may have diverged from the other Asian rhinos as far back as 15 million years ago.”
Also, in looking for images of the Sunda or Javan Rhino, there are very few good images available. There are surprisingly many images in black and white and of dead rhinos, which is extremely macabre and disheartening. But I do love a good historic illustration.
And their cousin, the Indian Rhino, isn’t faring much better. “The Indian rhinoceros once ranged throughout the entire stretch of the Indo-Gangetic Plain but excessive hunting reduced their natural habitat drastically. Today, about 3,000 rhinos live in the wild, 2,000 of which are found in India’s Assam alone.”