Indonesia: Farmers, Poachers Suspected in Elephant Kill

Nurdin Hasan Jakarta Globe 15 Jul 13;

Banda Aceh. A male Sumatran elephant aged about 30 found dead in Aceh Jaya district over the weekend is the third wild elephant death in Aceh in three months.

Amon Zamora, head of the Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency, said on Sunday that the carcass was found by Ranto Sabon village locals on Saturday morning. He believed a person deliberately killed it using a steel booby trap set using a tree.

“It’s very likely that someone killed [the elephant], because the ivory [tusks] had already been removed by the time it was located. We have asked for help from the police to investigate and try to find out who did this,” he told the Jakarta Globe.

“We are trying hard to capture the individual or individuals who may have killed this elephant for whatever reason, because that is an action that is forbidden by Indonesian law.”

Armidi, the chief law-enforcement official in the Forestry and Plantation Office of Aceh Jaya district, said the heavy trap had been installed on a fallen tree and angled so that the sharp steel spikes would enter the animal’s head.

“By the time the police arrived at the place where the elephant was found, the trap had already been removed by the [perpetrator],” Armidi said.

He added that details regarding the type of implement used to kill the animal had been supplied by people living in the area as well as surmised from marks left on the tree.

Ranto Sabon residents identified the animal as one that had regularly been eating crops planted in the area. They spoke of various unsuccessful attempts to drive it off, including using fireworks.

Armidi said the most recent skirmish with the elephant had been on Friday but that “almost every day that elephant would enter farms” in the area.

According to Ranto Sabon village chief Amiruddin, the presence of the elephant made residents anxious. “People have suffered losses [because of the elephant] and that’s why they put up traps in various locations,” he said.

He said that in view of people’s substantial losses, he could not stop them, adding that reports to the Conservation Response Unit requesting that the animal be dealt with had not received a response.

CRU is a program of Fauna and Flora International Indonesia that attempts to manage human-elephant conflicts by moving tame elephants into conflict areas.

Amon said humans and elephants were in an ongoing struggle for space in 19 of 23 Aceh districts, with Aceh Jaya, North Aceh, South Aceh, East Aceh, Aceh Singkil, and Pidie among the most conflict-prone areas.

“The conflict is caused by roads used [as corridors] through which the elephants pass while foraging. We have warned the residents several times against [creating obstructions], but they’re still continuing to do it.”

Amon said “the population growth for elephants in Aceh is actually pretty good because in a group of elephants there would always be one baby.”

But he noted that elephants were frequently being killed by farmers seeking to protect their crops, as well as by poachers seeking ivory.

In May, a 10-year-old male elephant was found dead near Bangkeh village in Pidie district.

Two months later a 2-year-old elephant died after living for two months as a “pet” for a household in Blang Pante village in North Aceh.

The elephant was reportedly left behind by its mother and captured.

Humans have also clashed with tigers over land further south in Sumatra.