The rare Javan rhino found dead in the central highlands of Vietnam last month was very likely shot by poachers, according to the World Wildlife Fund's latest press release.
Physical and photographic evidence showed that the female Javan Rhinoceros, found buried at a muddy riverbank in Cat Tien National Park on April 29, had been shot dead and its horn had been removed, WWF said in the statement issued on Thursday.
Abnormal cut marks were found where the horn was attached to the skull, it said, adding that a large portion of the upper jaw bone had also been removed.
A high caliber bullet was also found embedded in the front left leg of the skeleton, the press release said.
Related agencies are conducting tests to find out more about the bullet.
Craig Bruce, a rhino expert for the WWF, said the rhino, which weighed nearly one ton and died some five months ago, was probably shot many times by poachers and was seriously injured before dying.
Scientific research showed that populations totaling 40-50 rhinos, are now only found on Java in Indonesia, and even less in Vietnam's Cat Tien National Park.
It is now uncertain how many, if any, Javan rhinos are left in Vietnam, the WWF said.
Cat Tien National Park Director Tran Van Thanh, meanwhile, said between three and five Javan rhinos are living there.
The species, which is perhaps the most endangered large mammal in the world, was first detected in Vietnam by a camera trap in May 1999. It was last photographed in December, 2005.
Rhino horns are extremely valuable for their use in traditional Chinese medicine. They are sold at US$30,000 per kilogram.
In other wildlife news, local people in the southern province of Dong Nai on Thursday found a baby elephant weighing one ton dead in a mango garden.
The three-year-old animal was found lying some 100 meters away from the forest of Vinh Cuu Nature and Heritage Reserve in Phu Ly Commune.
Related agencies have taken samples for investigations into the animal's death.
It was the seventh elephant to be found dead in Dong Nai province this year.