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CaaC (John)

Anak Krakatau: How a tsunami could wipe out the last Javan rhinos

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28 December 2018



Conservationists have warned that the entire species of the critically endangered Javan rhino could be wiped out if a tsunami were to strike again.

They once roamed the jungles of South East Asia and India, but today only 67 exist in the Ujung Kulon National Park, which was hit by last week's tsunami.

The park sits in the shadow of Anak Krakatau, the volcano which triggered waves that killed hundreds of people.

The volcano remains active and officials are now rushing to move them.

Two park officials were among the 430 killed by the tsunami, and numerous park buildings and ships were also destroyed when the tsunami hit last Saturday.

But the Javan rhinos left in the park - the only ones left in the world - were left unscathed.

The rhinos typically live along the park's south coast and this tsunami hit the north coast - many are keenly aware that the rhinos might not be so lucky if there is another disaster.

An entire species in danger

The Javan rhinos are the most threatened of the five rhino species in the world - and have been listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

They were once found in northeast India and across South East Asia but their population was quickly depleted as a result of poaching, habitat destruction through agriculture, among other factors.


According to the WWF, Vietnam's last Javan rhino was poached in 2010.

"As there are no Javan rhinos in captivity anywhere in the world, should we lose this population, we've essentially lost the entire species," said Nicola Loweth, a WWF officer in a statement about the rhinos in Indonesia.


The search for the perfect location

Anak Krakatau began showing increased signs of volcanic activity since June earlier this year.

But it was last Saturday that volcanic activity from Anak Krakatau is believed to have set off undersea landslides, triggering a tsunami that has killed at least 430 people so far.

Possible cause of the tsunami 


Authorities say Anak Krakatau is still active, and is, in fact, becoming increasingly active with what are known as Strombolian eruptions - short-lived, explosive blasts of lava - being emitted.

"We understand that we cannot let the Javan rhinos live only in Ujung Julon," Widodo Sukohadi Ramono, chairman of the Rhino Foundation of Indonesian (YABI) told BBC News Indonesia.

Mr. Ramono added that there were plans in place to move a smaller group of rhinos to a secondary location, though there was "a lot [to be taken into] consideration".

The rhinos which would be moved would have to be in good health, have close ties to each other and able to reproduce.

But moving the rhinos to another location is easier said than done.

The new location would have to have more than 200 species of plants - food sources for the Javan rhino. It would also need to have a plentiful water supply, an ideal soil type, land condition and a place with a year-round wet climate.

"It's difficult to find the perfect location... we need at least five thousand hectares in one location. It has to provide [the rhinos] with [suitable] food, water. We need to know what diseases exist there, if there are predators, how supportive the local community is," the head of TNUK, Mamat Rahmat told BBC News Indonesia.


Government officials have been looking for years to find a suitable second location for the Javan rhinos. They were supposed to have found one in 2017 - but this never materialised.

"Sometimes the plan [does not] work out," said Mr. Mamat. "There are many obstacles, technical factors, internal constraints, and external factors [to take into consideration]."

Mr. Mamat adds that the government has surveyed 10 possible locations, of which one has arisen as a suitable candidate - the Cikepuh Wildlife Reserve in West Java.

However, this was not without its problems.

"There is an agreement [there] with the army about the use of land for combat drills. We need to do further studies on how the [sound] of guns and cannons could [impact] the rhinos."

Human activity also exists around the wildlife reserve - which could put the rhinos at risk.


The plan to move to the Cikepuh Wildlife Reserve appears to have stalled, but after the recent tsunami officials are once again moving with urgency.

"We [will] take more steps quickly in preparing a second habitat [for the rhinos]," said Mr. Mamat.

"If one day Ujung Kulon is hit by an eruption, then [we would hope] there would still be reserves [of Javan rhinos] in a new place."


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Nobody is safe in the Ring of Fire...Just hoping there won't be any volcanic activity similar to that in the 1800s. They should definitely try to establish a new population of those rhinos in a second site to ensure the survival of the species though.

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Anak Krakatau: Indonesian volcano's dramatic collapse

By Jonathan Amos

BBC Science Correspondent

29 December 2018



The scale of the dramatic collapse of the Indonesian volcano that led to last Saturday's devastating tsunami in the Sunda Strait is becoming clear.

Researchers have examined satellite images of Anak Krakatau to calculate the amount of rock and ash that sheared off into the sea.

They say the volcano has lost more than two-thirds of its height and volume during the past week.

Much of this missing mass could have slid into the sea in one movement.

It would certainly explain the displacement of water and the generation of waves up to 5m high that then inundated the nearby coastlines of Java and Sumatra.

Indonesia's disaster agency says more than 400 people are confirmed dead with 20 or so still missing. In excess of 40,000 have been displaced.

The Centre of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) has been studying pictures from a number of radar satellites, including the European Union's Sentinel-1 constellation and the German TerraSAR-X platform.

Radar has the advantage of being able to see the ground day or night and to be able to pierce cloud.

The capability has allowed some initial measurements to be made of Anak Krakatau's lost stature, in particular on its western side.

What was once a volcanic cone standing some 340m high is now just 110m tall, says the PVMBG.

In terms of volume, 150-170 million cubic meters of material has gone, leaving only 40-70 million cubic meters still in place.


Quite how much mass was lost on 22 December itself and how much in the following days is unknown. Scientists may have a better idea once they have had a chance to visit the volcano and conduct more extensive surveys.

But with the eruptions still ongoing and a safety exclusion zone in force - no-one is going near Anak Krakatau.

Cone collapse with tsunami generation was considered a potential hazard before last Saturday.

Scientists had modeled the possibility six years ago, even identifying the western flank of Anak Krakatau as the section of the volcano most likely to fail.

The study, although simulating a larger event, predicted wave heights and coast


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