Indonesia: Riau villagers in fear after bear attacks farmer

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 10 Nov 16;

Residents in some villages in Rambah district, Rokan Hulu regency, Riau, have become restless after a bear attacked a farmer and caused serious injuries to the 54-year-old woman.

Rasmi Hasibuan of Hulu Sei Deras hamlet, Rambah Tengah Barat village, was attacked by the wild animal during a lunch break on her rubber plantation last Friday.

The bear, believed to be of the sun bear species, attacked her from behind and caused injuries to her head and back.

Rasmi managed to escape and tried to walk home, only to collapse from exhaustion when she was about to reach her house 1 kilometer away from the farm.

She was helped by her son-in-law who took her to the hospital. Rasmi received a number of stitches for wounds caused by bear scratches and bites.

“The bear has actually been terrorizing the community since it first appeared in early September,” said Koto Tinggi villager Amran Maksum. Residents had often spotted the bear when walking along village roads, he added.

“We are scared every time we go to the fields, fearing that the bear could attack us,” Amran said on Wednesday.

He expressed regret over the slow response by the authorities.

“A resident has become a victim; is that not enough?” he lamented.

According to Amran, residents have written to the Rokan Hulu forestry and plantation office at least three times, asking officials to capture the animal.

Rasmi, meanwhile, is still being treated at the Pasir Pangaraian Hospital; her condition is improving, according to her husband Idris.

He said he could not afford the hospital bill, which so far had reached Rp 6.7 million (US$496). He said he would have to borrow from his neighbors and relatives.

“I’ve asked the government to help pay the hospital costs through the village head,” he said.

“My wife was attacked by a bear, an animal that is protected by the state, so it’s appropriate that the government is responsible for any damage caused by the animal,” Idris added.

Rokan Hulu forestry and plantation office head Sri Handono said he was coordinating with the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) to catch and relocate the bear.

“Police rangers have actually been deployed several times to track its whereabouts, but they lost trail, because the bear kept moving,” said Handono.

“Based on earlier reports, it was in Rambah Tengah Hulu village, but then moved to Sialang Jaya village and then moved again to the villages of Suka Maju and Koto Tinggi and finally to Rambah Tengah Barat,” he added.

Regarding Rasmi’s medical cost, Handono said that victims of wild animal attacks would receive assistance from the social services office.

“The domain of the forestry and plantation office only covers the handling of the bear, including the costs for its relocation, which has already been prepared,” he said.

Conflicts between humans and bears are common in Riau. Environmentalists say the animals are being threatened by habitat destruction, forest fires and poaching for their body parts.

As a consequence, bears are pushed out of their natural habitat and occasionally enter gardens and feed on crops.

Sun bears, which are found in tropical forest habitats of Southeast Asia, have been protected in Indonesia since 1973. The sun bear is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to large-scale deforestation.

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