Indonesia: Elephant population in Sumatra shrinks drastically

The Jakarta Post 12 Aug 16;

The population of Sumatran elephants has plummeted in the past nine years mainly due to the conversion of forest areas into plantations and settlements, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia has announced.

According to WWF data, the population of the critically endangered species drastically shrunk to around 1,700 currently from about 2,700 elephants in 2007.

Sunarto from WWF Indonesia said the Sumatran landscape changed quickly. The areas that were initially declared as conservation areas were in fact converted into plantations, forcing the largest land mammals to enter villages and the farmland, he explained.

“Even the Balai Raja wildlife reserve [in Riau] is planted with palm oil. The size of the conservation area is now only around 150 hectares, from the total area of 18,000 hectares,” he said in Jakarta on Thursday.

Sunarto added that many of the elephants entering villages were poisoned because they were considered parasites that destroyed farmland. To make matters worse, the elephants were often threatened by poaching.

He, therefore, called on all elements of society to intensify efforts to protect the elephants and their habitats. “Their existing habitats need to be preserved,” Sunarto said. (vny/ags)

World Elephant Day: Only 1,724 Sumatran Elephants Left in the Wild
Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 12 Aug 16;

Jakarta. The directorate general for natural and environmental resource at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has revealed only 1,724 Sumatran elephants are now left in the wild in the island of Sumatra, down 39 percent from the estimated population in 2007.

"From 2012 to 2016, 146 wild Sumatran elephants have been poisoned or killed by poachers for their tusks to satisfy demand in the illegal ivory trade in Riau and Aceh," Listya Kusumawardhani, the ministry directorate's head of environment conservation information, said on Thursday (11/08).

Listya said other than the growing threats from illegal ivory trade and habitat destruction, Sumatran elephants are also vulnerable to infectious diseases like herpes in conservation centers, due to poor sanitary conditions.

"There are eight elephant training centers in Indonesia, but their sanitation facilities leave a lot to be desired. We've got a lot of work to do," Listya said.

Nevertheless, Listya pointed out that some government-declared conservation areas have the potential to be comfortable and safe new homes for the Sumatran elephants.

"The government has declared 27 million hectares of forest in Indonesia as conservation areas. Sumatran elephants and other endangered wildlife can live safely there," Listya said.

Though the current Sumatran elephant population is still considered high for a critically endangered species, World Wildlife Fund Indonesia director of communication and advocacy, Nyoman Iswarayoga, said conservation efforts must be maximized to make sure the number does not slip.

"The official number may still be in the thousands, but we must continue to find innovative ways to save Sumatran elephants from extinction," Nyoman said.

World Elephant Day is celebrated on Aug. 12 worldwide to raise awareness of elephant conservation.

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