Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 50 – The Javan Leopard

Javan tiger, caught on camera, resting in the rainforest

Photographer: Age Kridalaksana (The Center for International Forestry Research – CIFOR)

The Javan leopard inhabits one of the most densely populated and richly bio-diverse islands in Indonesia.  Given the amount of attention by visiting biologists and conservationists over time, it is surprising there is so little information available about this and other island species.

Most of scant data written has come from those observed in captivity or those captured in the wild and returned with radio collars, or caught on camera traps.  They are said to be extremely elusive, though someone has clearly been finding them.  If only to export to various zoos.

Driven back deep into the forests by man, having been deprived of more than ninety per cent of its original habitat  (and with that its prey base),  the Javan leopard has been forced to turn to domestic livestock for food supplies.  The irony of this situation seems to be lost on the local population as conflict between the tigers and humans escalates. And, to make matters worse, villagers are turning to poaching.  Plans are being made to address the conflict and to offer alternative economic opportunities to the villagers. Which can only be a good thing.

The Javan Leopard is a beautiful, small leopard endemic to Java.  Its coat is orange with black rosettes.  It has piercing steel-grey eyes. Leopards,in general, are larger and stockier than the cheetah but not as big as the jaguar.  One wildlife photographer suggested the Javan leopard he ‘shot’ was about five feet ten inches in length.

Expert climbers, when not draped over branches fast asleep, they can run up to thirty-five miles per hour, bound over twenty feet forward and leap almost ten feet upwards.

Leopards remain solitary except when mating.  The gestation period involved lasts roughly one hundred days, after which two to four cubs will be born.  Sadly, only half will survive.  As happens so often, the infant mortality rate is high.

Less than two hundred and fifty pure Javans are thought to remain in the wild.  However, this estimate may be on the low side.  The species is prone to melanism, and more may exist as ‘black panthers’.

Dense tropical rainforest, dry deciduous forest and scrubland.
Gunung Gede National Park on the Indonesian island of Java.
What they eat

Deer, various monkeys and small apes, and wild boar. Through diminishing habitat and depletion of their prey base, Javan leopards have been forced towards settlements and have been known to prey on domestic animals in their search for food.
Habitat loss, illegal logging and agricultural expansion, poaching, loss of own prey and human conflict.
Status: Critically Endangered
The Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas) is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Critically Endangered.  It can also be found listed under  CITES Appendix I.  In Indonesia, the Javan leopard is classified as a protected species, and stringent hunting laws are enforced to prevent this leopard from going down the same road as the Javan tiger.  

There are an estimated two hundred and fifty Javan leopards left in the wild. In 1997 (latest available data), there were fourteen Javan leopards recorded in captivity within world zoos.  From 2007, the Taman Safari zoo in Indonesia kept seventeen Javan leopards, of which four were breeding pairs.  Javan leopards are also kept in the Indonesian zoos of Surabaya and Ragunan.  Captive breeding programmes do exist, but are not widespread. However, there have been zoo births, making the future look a little brighter for the species.

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
Rachel Carson

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 39 – The Javan Slow Loris

Javan slow loris

Photo by Iing Iryantoro

Often referred to as the gremlins of the jungle, these adorable creatures are being subjected to the most wanton cruelty imaginable.  Heartless illegal pet traders, who not only wrench them away from their families and natural environment, are gratuitously ripping their teeth out with wire clippers or cutting them down with nail clippers (in order to protect themselves from being bitten), causing untold anxiety and other complications. Often this leads to a slow and painful death with few making it to their intended destinations.

Some animals have been confiscated from illegal traders, and, in some cases, returned to the wild.  However, those who have had their teeth extracted are unable to defend themselves in their natural environment.  Per force, these unfortunate creatures must remain in captivity for the rest of their lives.

Remarkably (and apparently the reason for such cruel acts as teeth cutting), this shy little creature is the only living primate with a toxic bite.  And, in self-defence, it does bite.  It produces an oily substance from a gland in the elbow which, when mixed with saliva becomes poisonous.  There is no antidote for the poison, consequently locals have described it as being more dangerous than the leopard.

The Javan slow loris is nocturnal and arboreal,  moving slowly across vines and lianas in quadrupedal mode and  sleeping on exposed branches.  When foraging for food, baby lorises are left clinging to the branches alone.  All of these things render the species vulnerable to capture, and unscrupulous humans have been very quick to take advantage of this.

Javan slow lorises can be distinguished by their facial markings and features; long marks from the sides of the mouth to the top of the head, a white central stripe from the nose to the forehead, and huge, bulging brown eyes.  They also have soft, silky fur and human-like hands with opposable thumbs.  The tail is no more than a stump and is hidden by fur. They weigh in at less than two kilos, when fully grown, and can reach a length of roughly thirteen inches.

Little is known about the mating activities of the Javan slow loris in the wild.  Whatever sparse information there is available, has come from observations of those kept in captivity, and is as follows:  they give birth to a single infant  (all 50 grams of it!)  after a gestation period of just over six months.  Both parents take turns to carry the infant. Infants are weaned at five to six months of age.

I may be preaching to the converted, but the best way to help these lovely little creatures is by not supporting the pet trade market and buying one to take home.

Both primary and secondary forest including bamboo forest; mangroves and various plantations (especially cocoa).
Western and central Java  (Indonesia)
What they eat
Sap, flowers, fruit, insects, small mammals such as lizards, and birds and bird’s eggs.
The illegal exotic pet trade, hunting for research in traditional medicine and severe loss of habitat. The illegal pet trade is now the main cause of the decline of the species.
Status: Endangered
The Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.  It is also listed on CITES Appendix I.  International Animal Rescue  has established a facility specialising in the care of the slow loris in Ciapus, West Java. [1] Many other organisations, too numerous to mention here,  are also involved in the care and protection of this species. Although fully protected by Indonesian law, the illegal pet trade continues to flourish and enforcement of the laws is very lax.

“Human nature will find itself only when it fully realizes that to be human it has to cease to be beastly or brutal”
Mahatma Gandhi

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species 16 – The Javan Rhinoceros

Javan rhinocerosDescription
Prehistoric-looking, short-sighted and unbelievably shy, these astonishing beasts can run up to 30 miles per hour.  Needless to say, a charging rhino is best avoided.

As large animals go, the Javan rhino is possibly the rarest, and considered one of the most endangered, species on earth.  Only fifty remain in the world – quite alarming since they have been around for 50 million years.

50 million years!!   As with other endangered species, it begs the question; how has man managed to do so much damage in such a relatively short period of time?

Fascinatingly, no Javan rhinos whatsoever are kept in captivity, and the few that are left in the wild can all be located on the same Indonesian island.

The Javan is distinguished by its one small horn and often the majority of females have no horn at all.   Their skins have a dull greyish hue and they are smaller than other rhinos with less apparent folds of skin.

Though babies stay with their mothers for months, sometimes even years, adult Javan rhinos are usually solitary; but, when grouped together, they are known as a ‘crash of rhinos’. Who would have thought!

And, don’t be fooled! Even with all that armour plating, a rhino’s skin is not as tough as it looks.  Insects can and do bite them and they do get burnt by the sun.

Tropical rainforests

Western Java, Indonesia

What they eat
Fallen fruit, plants, shoots and twigs – of which they manage to munch their way through fifty kilograms per day.

The usual suspects: hunting & poaching (Chinese medicine), habitat loss and degradation. Lack of genetic diversity is a large contributor to the Javan rhino’s decline as well, as there are so few rhinos left; new mates are hard to find and those remaining are often related.

Status: Critically Endangered
Virtually all Javan rhino populations have disappeared over the last 150 years.  Those that remain on the island of Java are listed by the IUCN as critically endangered and unless something is done fairly soon, the Javan rhinoceros will probably be extinct within the next decade.  All the appropriate agencies are currently working to change this deplorable situation in an attempt to provide a future for these noble animals.

“Once species become extinct, no corrective legislation can bring them back—they are gone forever”
Allen M. Solomon