Indonesia: Elephant dies as conflict with humans intensifies

Hotli Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post 13 Nov 15;

Violent conflict between humans and elephants has continued to spread in Aceh after dozens of elephants invaded a residential area in East Aceh regency and occupied the oil palm plantations of local residents.

Since last week, residents of Seumanah Jaya subdistrict in Ranto Peureulak district have been forced to stay away from their plantations after a herd of some 50 wild elephants took over the area.

“We no longer know what to do to get rid of the wild elephants,” Sumanah Jaya subdistrict head Jamian told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Jamian said that the wild elephants had destroyed local residents’ oil palms and other plants in the area. However, no assistance had been lent so far by the local administration to put an end to the invasion.

“If the administration does nothing about it, don’t blame us if we take our own way of dealing with the elephants,” he said.

Jamian’s threat is not a mere boast.

A female elephant was found dead on Thursday at the location apparently as a result of electrocution.

Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) head Genma Hasibuan confirmed the death, saying that the ill-fated elephant had been killed by electrified barb wire, allegedly installed by local residents.

Genma said his office was currently investigating the case.

“According to some locals, they deliberately put up the electrified trap to get rid of other animals but it turned out to be an elephant that passed through the area,” he said.

Conflict between humans and elephants has continued to increase over the past several years in Aceh mainly due to the conversion of protected forest to plantation and residential areas.

Last month, residents of Sejahtera hamlet, Rimba Raya subdistrict, Pintu Rime Gayo district, Bener Meriah regency, fled their village after a herd of about 30 elephants repeatedly invaded had the area.

Genma, however, said there must be some reason why the elephants invaded the residential area.

Theoretically, he said, elephants migrated by following tracks that were already there.

“It’s people who built residential complexes and plantations in the elephants’ habitat and tracks. They [the elephants] will always return to the tracks, just as they have now,” he said.

The population of Sumatran elephants has been drastically decreasing over the last four years.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has raised the status of Sumatran elephants from crucial to critical, or just a step away from the status of extinct in the wild.

The status of extinct is the worst status and it has been given to elephants both in Asia and Africa.

Currently, the population of Sumatran elephants is estimated to be between 2,400 and 2,800. Such a figure exhibits a 50 percent decline compared to the population of 2007, which registered between 3,000 and 5,000 elephants.

Apart from struggling to survive illegal hunting, Sumatran elephants, particularly the young, are also prone to the elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) disease.

The Medan-based Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC), for example, reported that EEHV had killed five young elephants in Way Kambas, Lampung, in 2012, and four others between October of last year and February of this year.

EEHV-infected elephants suffer from lower immunity, swollen faces and blue tongues.


Elephant found dead after suspected pesticide poisoning
Hotli Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post 19 Nov 15;

A six-year-old male elephant was found dead on a block of farmland in Pucok Turue village in Mane district, Pidie, Aceh, on Wednesday, allegedly due to poisoning from eating pesticide stored by a farmer in a hut in the middle of the field.

Locals said they were shocked when they found the dead elephant in the irrigated field near a forest.

“We do not know how the elephant died, but we found piles of fertilizer and pesticide scattered near the elephant’s remains,” Sulaiman of Pucok Turue said on Wednesday.

Sulaiman said the forest bordering the village was frequently crossed by wild elephants, and that almost every six months a herd of about 17 passed by, but so far they had never entered the village or the people’s plantations.

“This is the first time an elephant has entered farmland or even the public road connecting the village to the district capital,” Sulaiman said.

He added that locals were used to the presence of elephants around their village, but said the condition had changed lately as they had started to enter residential areas.

“When elephants enter residential areas we get rid of them using fireworks that we prepare ourselves,” Sulaiman said.

The Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) confirmed that the elephant was found dead in Pidie on Wednesday. The center also sent a team to examine the remains of the wild animal and conduct an autopsy on it.

BKSDA head, Genma Hasibuan, said the elephant was probably around six years old and had died from the poison in the fertilizers and pesticide it had consumed.

“A pile of fertilizer sacks was found some 100 meters from where the body of the elephant was found. Some were scattered and torn, most likely by the elephant,” Genma said.

The elephant was the eighth that has been found dead in Aceh so far this year.

Last week, a female elephant was found dead in Seumanah Jaya subdistrict, Ranto Peureulak district, apparently as a result of electrocution.

The death of the elephant was believed to have been caused by conflicts between the wild animals and local residents.

Some residents had been forced to stay away from their plantations after a herd of some 50 wild elephants took over the area.

Conflict between wild animals and people in the province has constantly increased in recent years alongside the increase in land and forest conversion, especially for oil palm plantations.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has raised the status of Sumatran elephants from crucial to critical, or just a step away from the status of extinct in the wild.

The more serious status of extinct has been given to some elephant species in Asia and Africa.

The current population of Sumatran elephants is estimated to be between 2,400 and 2,800, a 50 percent decline compared to the population estimate of 2007, in which between 3,000 and 5,000 elephants were recorded.

Apart from the threat of illegal hunting, Sumatran elephants, particularly the young, are also prone to the elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) disease.

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