By Dessy Sagita
Three critically endangered Javan rhino calves have been filmed in an Indonesian national park, taking to 60 the total population of the world's rarest rhino and offering hope for the creature's future.
One female calf and two males were spotted in recent months in Ujung Kulon park, on Java island, and were all likely born in the past year in a newly established sanctuary, park chief Mohammad Haryono said on Wednesday (local time).
While individual calves have been spotted occasionally in recent years, seeing three in the space of a few months is a rare piece of good news for the shy creatures that once numbered in the thousands and roamed across Southeast Asia.
Revered in Javanese folklore as Abah Gede, or the Great Father, the rhino's population has dramatically dwindled due to poaching and human encroachment on their habitat.
Widodo Ramono, head of conservation group the Indonesian Rhino Foundation, hailed the discovery of three new calves as "wonderful news".
"Now we just need to ensure their protection," he told AFP.
The population of Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon dropped to 35 in 2011 but has been slowly increasing in recent years, according to Aom Mukhtarom, a member of the park's rhino monitoring team.
In 2014, only one calf was spotted in the entire year, he said.