The impact of the Krakatoa eruption in 1883 on the population of Rhinoceros sondaicus in Ujung Kulon, with details of rhino observations from 1857 to 1949

Main Article Content

N.J.van. Strien
K. Rookmaaker


A recent suggestion that the entire population of the Javan Rhinoceros in Ujung Kulon National Park was annihilated by the effects of the eruption of the Krakatoa in 1883 is investigated. Based on a review of contemporary reports, it is shown that people survived the waves and remained settled in one village until 1906 when it was evacuated during a plague of tigers. The first report of a rhinoceros in the peninsula of Ujung Kulon dates from 1857 and the animals were occasionally reported from the area afterwards. There is no indication from the available estimates and sightings that rhinos were exterminated in the area. Ujung Kulon has been a protected area since 1921. Rhino numbers ranged upwards to about 40 or 50 for most of the period until 1949. The population of Rhinoceros sondaicus is not a new founder population established after the eruption of the Krakatoa in 1883.

Article Details

Author Biographies

N.J.van. Strien

Nico van Strien (1 April 1946 – 7 February 2008) was a well-known biologist interested in the birds and mammals of Africa and South-East Asia. He will certainly be remembered for his indefatigable efforts to save the rhinos in Indonesia. From 1975 to 1980, Nico made several excursions into the remotest parts of the Gunung Leuser National Park on Sumatra with the intention to study the ecology of the Sumatran rhinoceros. These are elusive animals, and the only way to get results was to design a technique to monitor their footprints and other signs. He was able to present his data as a dissertation in 1985, which is one of the few major studies on the subject. Nico liked field-work, but was no less at home in libraries and museums, where he traced previous relevant publications. He knew that sound academic research as well as effective conservation need to be based on the experiences and observations of all generations and all backgrounds. In his later years, Nico was active as the Asia Rhino Program Coordinator of the International Rhino Foundation and as the Co-Chair of the Asian Rhino Specialist Group. His expertise and leadership were remarkable. On 10 January 2008, his health weakened by incurable prostrate cancer, his friends and colleagues received an email message from Nico to share his decision “that whatever energy and time remains should be devoted to my family and friends. And that I should cease all my official and unofficial functions and duties. I want to thank you for all the things that we’ve been able to do together for the benefit of conservation in South East Asia and in particular for the Asian rhinos. Together we’ve been able to do many useful programs and projects and many good friendships and professional relationships were formed.†Nico must have struggled to write these words, just as many of the recipients much have silently wept. We lost a fighter for nature study and conservation at the height of his ability. He spent his last days in Holland with his wife Tineke and his sons Maarten and Willem. Let us continue the fight to save wildlife in Asia and Africa with similar selfless dedication Kees Rookmaaker.

K. Rookmaaker

Kees Rookmaaker is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Biology at the National University of Singapore, working on providing the works of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace Online. He is a member of the IUCN Asian Rhino Specialist Group and the Chief Editor of the Rhino Resource Center.