Professor Dang Huy Huynh, Chairman of the Vietnam Animal Association, said in 2001 and 2002, he and some animal experts made a survey of rhinos in the Cat Loc zone in the Cat Tien Park and found several footprints of the one–horned rhinos.
They then took plaster casts of the footprints, which are being preserved at the park.
“Based on the footprints including the ones of baby rhinos, 3 to 5 rhinos may be living in the park,” Huynh said.
“When WWF announced the Javan Rhino, which was shot to death by poachers last year, was the last of its kind in Vietnam, I still hope that there are still more Javan Rhinos in Vietnam,” he said. “I have convinced experts to continue to make more surveys to identify whether or not they are still living here.”
But international experts said the plaster casts of the footprints had different sizes possibly because of environmental and weather effects.
“It’s a reasonable explanation,” Huynh said. “But we still need to search for these rhinos in Vietnam. Some endangered pieces are still found after they have earlier been confirmed to be extinct.”
According to Huynh, a skeleton of the Javan rhino was found at Cat Tien 10 years ago and it meant that 2 skeletons of Javan rhinos had been found in the park so far.
Huynh said local authorities should ask local residents and ethnic minorities living nearby to search for the rhinos.
Pham Van An, director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Central Highlands of Lam Dong, agreed with Huynh and said there was not enough foundation to believe that Javan rhinos are now extinct in Vietnam.
Meanwhile, Dr. Le Xuan Canh, Director of the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, said more specific researches were needed to arrive at the final conclusion about the case.
“Some statistics show at least 3 one-horned rhinos are living in Vietnam,” Canh said.
Some experts said there are up to 8 rhinos in the Cat Tien National Park.
Earlier on October 25 when WWF and the International Rhino Foundation announced the Javan rhino that was shot dead probably for its horn at the Nam Cat Tien National Park last year was the last one of its kind in Vietnam, Christy Williams, coordinator of WWF’s Asian Elephant and Rhino Program, said that it was impossible to re-import Java rhinos into Vietnam.
“We will have no chance to see Java rhinos in the S-shaped land,” Christy said.
The one-horned Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticusare) was believed to be extinct in mainland Asia until one was killed by hunters in Vietnam's Cat Tien region in 1988.
This led to the discovery of a small population that by 2007 had only 8 members, according to a Guardian report.
In 1990s, Vietnam established the Nam Cat Tien National Park to safeguard the rhino and ensure its food sources.
But the Javan rhinoceros were always threatened by illegal hunting and poachers since their horns, skin and dung are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine and even considered a cure for cancer though there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.
This critically endangered species is now believed to have a single population with less than 50 members left on the small island of Java, Indonesia, which gives the animal its name.