Best of our wild blogs: 5 May 18

14 May (Mon): "Ocean's 18" talks for Pint of Science
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Kusu shores closed after asbestos found
wild shores of singapore

Read more!

Asbestos found on Kusu Island; lagoon and beach areas to be closed till Oct

CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 4 May 18;

SINGAPORE — Traces of asbestos, a hazardous material, have been discovered on Kusu Island, the authorities said on Friday (May 4) after a similar discovery on St John's Island over a week ago.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said it would conduct surveys for asbestos on other publicly accessible islands around Singapore, but declared Lazarus Island, Pulau Seringat and Kias Island to be free of the hazardous material thus far.

Asbestos is a potentially toxic mineral that could cause lung cancer and other illnesses if its fibres are inhaled over a prolonged period. It was once commonly used in building materials, but has since been banned in Singapore and other developed countries due to concerns about health risks.

In a statement, the SLA said that it would be closing off the affected areas on Kusu Island - a lagoon and parts of the beach - until October this year for workers to remove the asbestos.

Popular sites like the Da Bo Gong (Tua Pek Kong) temple, wishing well, tortoise sanctuary, a temporary hawker centre and the jetty will remain open to public as asbestos was not discovered there.

The daily ferry services to the island, about 5.6km south of Singapore, are unaffected as well, SLA added.

It did not disclose how much asbestos was discovered on Kusu Island, beyond saying the hazardous material was discovered in "pieces of debris".

On April 23, SLA announced that it was sealing off the recreational areas on St John's Island until the middle of next year following the discovery of debris containing asbestos.

Meanwhile, survey work on Pulau Hantu is expected to be completed by next week.

"If asbestos is found, SLA will undertake the necessary removal works and implement similar precautionary measures to safeguard public safety," the authority said.

Asbestos found around lagoon, beach areas on Kusu Island
Channel NewsAsia 4 May 18;

SINGAPORE: Pieces of debris containing asbestos have been discovered around the lagoon and beach areas on Kusu Island, the Singapore Land Authority said on Friday (May 4).

Public access to the affected areas have been cordoned off and will remain closed until removal works are completed, SLA said, adding that it aims to do this by October.

Asbestos was not detected at the Da Bo Gong (Tua Pek Kong) temple, wishing well, tortoise sanctuary, temporary hawker centre, and jetty. These areas will remain open to visitors.

The regular scheduled daily ferry services to Kusu Island will also continue.

The announcement follows the discovery of asbestos on St John’s Island last month. Asbestos removal works on St John’s Island are ongoing.

After the discovery on St John’s Island, the SLA worked with relevant agencies to conduct further asbestos surveys on islands open to the general public as a precautionary measure, it said.

No debris containing asbestos was found on Lazarus Island, Pulau Seringat and Kias Island, SLA said.

The asbestos survey work for Pulau Hantu will be completed by next week. If asbestos is found, SLA will undertake the necessary removal works and implement similar precautionary measures to safeguard public safety, it said.

The agency noted that asbestos has been banned in Singapore since 1989 due to concerns over health risks, following similar moves by other developed countries.

Nevertheless, the asbestos materials in old buildings are unlikely to pose any health risk as long as they remain in good condition and are not disturbed, it added.

Asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis occur mainly in people with many years of continued exposure to high levels of asbestos, and this is commonly work-related, SLA said.

It added that the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease for people with incidental exposure, including visitors to affected islands, is low.

Source: CNA/aj

Read more!

Ivory seized by Singapore authorities in March to undergo DNA analysis

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 5 May 18;

Findings can pinpoint where the elephants were poached and help in enforcement efforts

SINGAPORE — Efforts to analyse the DNA of 3.5 tonnes of ivory seized by the Singapore authorities in March are underway, and findings could help to pinpoint where the elephants were poached and shed greater light on ivory trafficking.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said on Friday (May 4) it is working with an American conservation biologist known for his groundbreaking work using DNA – or deoxyribonucleic acid – to aid the conservation of elephants.

Populations of the largest land animal are in peril due to poaching and the illegal trade in ivory, and tens of thousands of elephants are reportedly slaughtered every year.

Dr Samuel Wasser and his team from the University of Washington visited Singapore last month and collected 253 samples of the tusks seized.

The AVA is also working with the United States’ Homeland Security Investigations, the Singapore government agency added.

The shipment, which was declared to contain groundnuts, originated from Nigeria and was to be re-exported to Vietnam. It was detained at the Pasir Panjang Scanning Station by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority on March 5.

The AVA inspected the container and found 61 bags containing 1,787 pieces of elephant ivory estimated to be worth about US$2.5 million (S$3.3 million). The AVA said in March that the importer was assisting with investigations.

Dr Wasser said: “The ivory we are sampling now was seized a month and a half ago. That’s the shortest time we’ve ever had between the seizure (being) made and us getting to sample it. By getting the information quick, we can have a greater effect in enforcement.”

DNA analysis takes three weeks from the time the samples arrive at the laboratory, he said. Countries may not release ivory seized to his team until cases are closed, which can be months or years later. But if brought in earlier, his team can help enforcement agencies to “build a better prosecution”, added Dr Wasser. Besides Singapore, his team has worked with authorities from countries such as Kenya, Mozambique, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Sri Lanka to collect samples of seized ivory.

He called Singapore the most responsive country he has worked with and said it was the first country which his team had worked with to conduct DNA analysis of seized ivory more than a decade ago.

Scientists including Dr Wasser found ways to extract DNA from faeces in the 1990s.

Dr Wasser did it for elephant dung and was able to map elephant genetics across the African continent. Soon after, he succeeded in getting DNA out of ivory. By comparing it with the genetic map, it became possible to show where the ivory had originated.

Dr Wasser told The New York Times in 2016 he could “take a tusk from anywhere in Africa and trace its origins to within 300km of where that elephant was killed, often to the very park or reserve”. Such information has enabled conservationists to know where syndicates operate and, sometimes, to stop the crimes from happening, he said.

Data collected can help to identify the major poaching hotspots in Africa and how they change over time, Dr Wasser told TODAY via email. It is also able to connect individual cartels to multiple shipments, and serves to focus law enforcement on the most important poaching hotspots as well as the major cartels driving them.

Dr Wasser’s analysis, including of ivory seized in Singapore, has successfully helped in enforcement overseas, said the AVA.

“Our collaboration with Dr Wasser and (the US Homeland Security Investigations) is important as DNA analysis can help identify hotspots where poaching and illegal ivory trade originate,” said Dr Anna Wong, director of AVA’s import and export regulation department. “We are confident that our efforts will contribute to the global fight against illegal ivory trade.”

The AVA’s veterinary public health laboratory conducts its own DNA analysis of seized wildlife products, such as rhino horn, ivory and pangolin scales, to ascertain the animal species, Dr Wong told TODAY.

But for DNA analysis to trace the origin of the animals from which the products are derived, it works with experts, she said.

Besides DNA analysis, radiocarbon dating has allowed scientists to determine if ivory came from elephants that were recently killed. In a recent study of seizures made in various countries between 2002 and 2014, researchers concluded that most of the contraband came from elephants that had been killed less than three years before the ivory was confiscated.

Samples from seizures made in Singapore were part of the study and researchers found that the 6.5-tonne seizure in 2002 originated from elephants in Zambia, while ivory seized in 2014 came from elephants in East Africa.

In 2016, Singapore was labelled a country of “primary concern” for its role as a transit point for ivory trafficking by wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic.

But late last year, it was exempted from having to come up with a National Ivory Action Plan to strengthen controls, after it convinced members of a global convention that measures were in place.

AVA and US scientists using DNA to trace source of seized illegal ivory worth US$2.5 million
Audrey Tan Straits Times 4 May 18;

SINGAPORE - The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is working with experts in the United States to track down the source of some 3,500kg of illegal ivory worth about US$2.5 million (S$3.32 million) seized here after it was shipped from Nigeria.

The ivory was confiscated in March, en route to Vietnam.

"As part of our investigations, AVA recently collaborated with Dr Sam Wasser, his team from the University of Washington, and the United States Homeland Security Investigations, to conduct DNA analysis of samples from the latest seizure," a spokesman for AVA said on Friday (May 4).

Dr Wasser, a conservation biologist from the University of Washington, pioneered the scientific method of extracting DNA from ivory tusks in 1998.

Among other things, an analysis of DNA samples can pinpoint where the elephant was poached and reveal potential linkages with other seizures overseas, AVA said.

As part of the two-day sampling process last month, the tusks were measured and grouped according to their characteristics.

Once sorted, specific ivory pieces were identified for sampling. A small piece of ivory was cut from each sample and taken to Dr Wasser's lab in the US for DNA tests, which are ongoing, said AVA.

Dr Anna Wong, director of AVA's import and export regulation department, said that while Singapore is neither the source nor destination country for illegal ivory, the trade is transnational in nature.

Singapore has long been identified by international environmental groups monitoring the illegal wildlife trade as a transshipment hub through which exotic animals and their parts often come through.

Said Dr Wong: "The findings can assist law enforcement agencies in source countries to focus their enforcement efforts. We are confident that our efforts will contribute to the global fight against illegal ivory trade."

Dr Wasser said that for fast enforcement action, it is important that seized ivory gets sampled quickly.

"By getting the information quick, we can have a greater effect in enforcement... If we are brought in earlier, we can help enforcement agencies build a better prosecution," he said.

His working relationship with the Singapore authorities goes back some 10 years. The Republic, he said, was the first country he worked with to conduct DNA analysis of seized ivory, and is by far the most responsive he has collaborated with.

Said Dr Wasser: "The ivory we are sampling now was seized a month and a half ago. That's the shortest time we've ever had between when the seizure was made and us getting to sample it."

In other cases, countries do not release seized ivory for sampling until up to two years later, he added.

The elephant tusks were grouped according to their characteristics. PHOTO: AVA
Singapore follows the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites). Elephants are a protected species under Cites and international trade in elephant ivory is prohibited.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations regional attache Calvin Webb said collaborations such as that between AVA and the University of Washington, coupled with the use of technology, can help with enforcement.

He said: "Those involved in the thefts which led to this past March's historic poached ivory seizure, as well as others involved in this criminal act, will be held accountable for their actions."

While the agency works with international agencies such as Interpol, and steps up enforcement at checkpoints, the public has an important role to play as well, AVA said on Friday.

This includes not buying illegal wildlife or their parts and products, as well as sending alerts to the authorities for suspected cases via AVA's online feedback form or by calling 6805-2992.

Those found guilty can be fined up to $1,000, and must forfeit the animal or item. If the wildlife species is protected under Cites, the fine is a maximum of $500,000 and/or two years' imprisonment. Specimens will also be forfeited.

Read more!

From ditching disposables to composting, the women going the extra mile to reduce waste

They’ve had to endure snide remarks and scepticism, but continue to do their part for the environment.
Aqil Haziq Mahmud Channel NewsAsia 5 May 18;

SINGAPORE: During the hectic lunch hour, freelance social worker Shihui Khee’s instructions on how her food should be served can ruffle a few feathers.

“Some people behind me in the queue will say quite passive-aggressive things,” the 36-year-old told Channel NewsAsia. “Like ‘oh you’re so slow’ or ‘it’s not like I have all the time in the world’.”

It’s not that Ms Khee is a picky eater. Rather, she refuses to use disposables like plastic and styrofoam containers or paper cups when eating out or ordering takeaways. Food goes strictly into her 1l collapsible lunchbox; cold drinks into her 750ml cup.

This means taking a longer time to process her order, especially with stallholders who pre-pack their Styrofoam boxes with rice.

Still, Ms Khee is serious about reducing her waste. The “kick up my backside” was a newspaper article she read last May about how the Great Barrier Reef had been damaged beyond repair.

The Telegraph reported then that about 95 per cent of the reef suffers from bleaching, which is believed to be caused by global warming. The life cycle of disposables contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases.

According to National Environment Agency figures, Singapore generated almost 2 million tonnes of plastic and paper or cardboard waste last year, a roughly 5,000-tonne drop from 2016. However, the recycling rate of such waste also dropped by 1 per cent.

“It was just very shocking because it’s the largest reef formation in the world,” Ms Khee said of the article. “How is it possible that human actions have destroyed it within a very quick couple of decades?

“It made me realise I can think about being environmentally friendly and feel sad for the environment, but what are my concrete actions? What am I actually going to do about the situation?”

Since then, Ms Khee has steered clear of disposables. She practises this everywhere, even in fast food joints like McDonald’s and MOS Burger. The smallest details, like the wooden toothpick in a cocktail, are not spared.

It started with just one set of cutlery and a water bottle. Soon Ms Khee's inventory grew to include a lunchbox, metal straw and a cup each for hot and cold drinks. She carries these items, plus different carriers for groceries and produce, in a large bag every day.

“I’ve given up on cute girly bags that are tiny,” she said. She even brings along extra sets of cutlery when eating in a group.

As the interview progresses, it becomes clear that Ms Khee’s mission extends far beyond herself. “I would be naive to believe that me saving 170 plastic items a month is going to change the world,” she said.

“But if you think about 170 plastic items multiplied by 6 million in Singapore, then it’s decent. At least get them to be more mindful about the choices they’re making in their everyday life, and the impacts of those choices on the environment.”

That’s when she started an Instagram page documenting her meals and the amount of related waste she’s saved. @tabaogirl, which currently has close to 800 followers, has been growing “organically”.

“I feel that a lot of it is about helping people realise that global warming is real; climate change is real. And yet it has to be explained in a way that is accessible and understandable by people that may not necessarily be interested in the issue at all,” she said.

“Food is something that is very literal and key to the Singaporean psyche. So, I thought that by signposting my actions every single day, I’m this nagging presence that is not going away.”

She’s seen some success. Friends would update her whenever they tried to reduce waste, like asking colleagues not to use plastic straws. “It’s nice to see my friends change the way they behave,” she added.


However, not everyone is convinced. Some have approached Ms Khee to question her actions. “You think you’re very environmentally friendly?” they would ask. “Do you know that your box also needs soap and water to clean?”

Ms Khee said she would respond politely, telling them that takeaway boxes also require resources to make and leave a carbon footprint during transportation. “I just try to have a reasonable conversation with people and incite more critical thinking,” she said.

“But it’s very interesting because people judge very quickly. If I’m doing this thing, I must come from a very well-to-do family,” she added, declaring that she’s not rich “by any standards”. “My point is that if an average Jane can do this, anyone can.”

Some eateries also refuse to fill Ms Khee's containers because of hygiene issues, or the fact that they are too big for some portions.

But Ms Khee counters by saying she’s never gotten sick doing this. As for the portions, she said doesn’t need her lunchboxes filled to the brim.

Still, some eateries are insistent, she said. This includes halal food stallholders who prefer that their serving ladles not touch her lunchbox. In this case, she apologises and backs away.

“Some sellers will say my char kway teow is so hot that it will melt the plastic in your box,” she added. “If it cannot be done, then I’d rather not eat it.”

This means that Ms Khee has had to give up some of her favourite drinks and dishes.

“I guess being different in Singapore is sometimes very challenging,” she said of her habit. “It is almost as if people don’t like being reminded that they could do more in their everyday life.”


Nevertheless, Ms Khee is determined to stick to her cause. Last month alone, she refused about 175 pieces of disposables, comprising wooden, plastic and paper utensils.

She’s not bothered by the stares she gets when washing her utensils in public toilets, nor has she grown tired of the constant cleaning. “It’s not terribly onerous,” she said.

She’s keen to go a step further, too. She mentors youth who want to do the same. She also occasionally writes to restaurants, urging them to reduce waste.

“I don’t imagine always that I will change the mind of the restaurants,” she said. “But I’m letting the restaurants know that there’s a bunch of customers like that now. If you want to take our money, you better change your practice.”

However, Ms Khee acknowledged that in some situations, wastage cannot be avoided, like when surgeons regularly throw out their gowns to prevent contamination.

“I’m not crazy or unreasonable,” she said. “But where I’m coming from is that my everyday eating habits are well within my control. Now that I know that, will I make a choice to do something about it?”

If Ms Khee chose to do something about it while eating out, veterinarian Cassandra Ng, 27, does the same while eating in.


Ms Ng started composting at home less than a year ago after getting concerned by the sheer amount of waste that's being produced. Singapore generated about 810,000 tonnes of food waste last year, with less than a quarter of that recycled.

After joining the Journey to Zero Waste Life in Singapore Facebook group and getting tips from one its members on how to compost, Ms Ng never looked back.

“It’s so easy,” she said, adding that the process doesn’t require daily attention. “It seems like a really good way to get into the circular economy type of thinking.”

Compost posts should be aerated and placed on a flat surface away from rain and pets. Newspaper is used as a base and to keep away fruit flies.

While most kitchen waste goes into the incinerator, Ms Ng puts hers in compost pots and fills them with remix powder, a kind of cocopeat-based, microbe-rich soil that helps breaks down the food. Worms can do the same job. This produces compost that can be used as plant fertiliser.

Ms Ng mixes up the powder and waste – which includes egg shells, fruit skins, rice and pasta – every weekend, before sieving out good compost every four weeks. This way, she generates almost zero food waste from the four meals she has at home every week.

Ms Ng's waste takes longer to break down because she doesn't add microbes to her pile.

“It’s not anything more than you would do on a regular basis,” she said, pointing out that her pots are conveniently placed near the kitchen. “Instead of putting it in the bin, you put it in the compost.”


But doesn’t the rotting food stink up the house? This is the question Ms Ng, who lives with her boyfriend in a condominium, usually gets. Even her boyfriend had reservations. Others have asked if she adds faeces into the pile.

“People have this conception that you’re going to have lots of cockroaches, flies and disgusting things everywhere, but it’s not the case,” Ms Ng said, adding there's a slight smell but it doesn't stink up her home.

However, Ms Ng admitted that she does not add meat to her pile. While such waste can stink and attract pests, it is possible to compost meat with ample layering and frequent mixing.

Composting doesn’t require a lot of space either, Ms Ng said, adding that she places some of her pots on top of her air-conditioning units. Housing and Development Board staircase landings are possible locations too, she added.

When it comes to cost, Ms Ng said it’s usually a one-time purchase. Her compost pot and two 5kg bags of remix powder cost S$150.


Because composting is not a hassle, Ms Ng said it is a “very good” argument against those who say they need plastic bags to bag up their food waste.

Even then, Ms Ng said many items already come in plastic packaging that can be used for the trash. “Loads of things come with bags and it’s something you can’t escape. Why not use that instead?” she asked. “We’re just such a wasteful society in general.”

To that end, Ms Ng urged more people to try composting. “It’s really not that much of an effort,” she said. “Everybody wants to think they’re doing their small part; makes them feel good about themselves at the same time.”

When it comes to ditching disposables, Ms Khee advised to start small. “If it’s bringing out a water bottle, that’s great,” she said. “Once you get the hang of it, try something else.”

Ms Ng added: “People don’t realise that little steps can really make a big difference.”

Source: CNA/hz

Read more!

Indonesia's regional elections take toll on environment

Moses Ompusunggu The Jakarta Post 4 May 18;

Testimony by a palm-oil businessman in a bribery trial at the Jakarta Corruption Court has revealed how local elections have done more harm than good to the environment.

The court heard on Wednesday that Rita Widyasari, the suspended regent of Kutai Kartanegara in East Kalimantan, allegedly financed her political activities with billions of rupiah that she received from the businessman, who allegedly wanted to secure concession permits in a protected peatland area in the former's regency.

Businessman Hery Susanto Gun, who is also being charged in the case, testified on Wednesday that Rita had demanded Rp 9 billion (US$643,950) when she was running for office.

Hery, president director of oil palm firm PT Sawit Golden Prima, told the court that the demand was conveyed by Rita's aide Hani Kristiyanto.

Rita did visit Hery afterward, but did not ask for the money, merely asking for advice on "winning the local election", Hery said.

When Rita was elected Kutai Kertanegara regent, Hery told the court that the politician, again through Rani, asked for Rp 6 billion because Rita had run out of money after the election.

According to Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) prosecutors, the Rp 6 billion was a bribe given by Hery to Rita relating to Hery's efforts to obtain a business permit for the former's 16,000-hectare oil palm concession in the regency.

After Hery gave the money to Rita, the latter finally signed the permit document for Hery's oil palm plantation, even though a local regulation prohibits agricultural companies from having concessions of over 15,000 ha.

Kutai Kartanegara (Kukar) regent Rita Widyasari
Kutai Kartanegara (Kukar) regent Rita Widyasari (Antara/Sigid Kurniawan)

Furthermore, according to local activists, the oil palm plantation is located within a peat swamp ecosystem, which plays a major role for the environment by cycling and storing significant amounts of carbon. A substantial proportion of Indonesia's peatlands, including in East Kalimantan, has suffered severe degradation to make way for industrial logging concessions and oil palm plantations.

Agricultural business in Indonesia, which contains one of the world’s three largest stands of tropical forest, along with the Amazon and Congo basins, rapidly expanded during the 32-year regime of former president Soeharto, which benefited a small group of forestry conglomerates with close links to the strongman president after it created the Forestry Law in 1967, which gave Jakarta the exclusive right to forest exploitation in roughly 143 million ha of the country's forests.

The fall of Soeharto in 1998 marked the birth of the regional autonomy system, which gave local forest agencies control over much of the forest estate, and the direct regional elections to generate a new breed of local leaders.

While political parties flex their muscles ahead of the simultaneous regional elections scheduled for June, in which 171 regions across Indonesia will elect their new leaders, the period is likely to be used by businessmen to deepen their ties to political hopefuls in the regions to support their business expansion through obtaining permits, environment groups have warned.

In a report released in January, the Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi) predicted 2018 would be a tough year for the environment, with corporations "hoping to secure their own interests through political intervention."

Walhi said that in the past business permits had been rampantly issued by local leaders before or soon after elections through various means, such as by revising local spatial documents, which detail land use in various areas.

"Regional elections always provide room for a strong association between business magnates and political leaders," Walhi said in its report.

The practice may flourish again in 2018, because the public's attention is solely focused on provinces that could be battlegrounds for political parties to secure their interests, not regions that are prone to environmental degradation and land conflicts, said Walhi executive director Nur Hidayati.

An election officer moves a ballot box from the Ciamis Regional Elections (Pilkada) logistics warehouse in Ciamis regency, West Java, on Feb.28.
An election officer moves a ballot box from the Ciamis Regional Elections (Pilkada) logistics warehouse in Ciamis regency, West Java, on Feb.28. (Antara/Adeng Bustomi)

It is not only agricultural firms that are eyeing permits before or after regional elections, but also mining companies.

Merah Johansyah, national coordinator of the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), said there were at least 13 regions participating in the simultaneous local elections that were prone to mining permit transactions in the midst of elections.

"They are regions with a high number of conflicts relating to mining operations based on Jatam's data," said Merah.

The regions are 11 provinces – Bengkulu, Central Java, East Java, East Kalimantan, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), Jambi, Papua, Riau, Southeast Sulawesi, South Sumatra and West Java, -- and two regencies -- Dairi in North Sumatra and East Manggarai in NTT.

Issuing extractive business permits is one of five moves in the corruption playbook widely used by regional leaders in Indonesia, according to Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), along with misusing village funds, disbursing social funds, promotion for civil servants and misusing authority in goods and services procurement.

Another important element that could decide the future of the environment is whether candidate pairs competing in regional elections see environment protection as a primary concern during their campaigns.

But a substantial discourse on environmental protection is one that is somewhat missing in Indonesia's regional elections, said Hendri Sitorus, a North Sumatra University environmental sociologist.

"Regional election campaigns have not been sensitive to environment issues.”

Read more!

Indonesia: Endangered elephant calf caught in trap saved

Hotli Simanjuntak and Gisela Swaragita
The Jakarta Post 4 May 18;

The Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and the Center of Elephant Training in Saree have teamed up with locals to save an elephant calf that was inadvertently trapped in an agricultural area at the edge of a forest in Geumpang district of Pidie regency.

The calf, estimated to be around 3 months old, was suspected to have been passing the area with its herd when its front left leg was caught in a nylon trap that locals had set to catch wild hogs that often intruded into their agricultural area.

The calf, a protected Sumatran elephant, could not extricate itself from the trap and severely injured its leg in the process of trying to break free.

The injured calf was subsequently left behind by its herd.

Dedi Irvansyah, an official with the BKSDA, said local residents found the unfortunate calf two days before it was freed on Wednesday, but they did not immediately help because they were afraid that its mother would come back to retrieve it.

The BKSDA immediately deployed a team after receiving the information from the locals, but by the time they arrived at the location later on Wednesday, locals had already freed the elephant from the trap.

“It appeared that after we told them that most injured elephants are left behind by their herd, the locals freed the poor calf from the trap,” Dedi said on Thursday.

By the time the calf was freed, the wound in its leg had already turned necrotic and required intensive care due to the delay in providing aid.

However, Dedi said besides the leg wound, the calf did not suffer any other severe injuries.

“The calf is just very stressed right now,” he said.

On early Thursday morning, the BKSDA took the calf to a training center in Saree, Aceh Besar regency, which is around 150 kilometers from the incident.

The calf is now under the care of veterinarians from the agency as well as from Syiah Kuala University.

Forest areas in Geumpang are home to a large population of Sumatran elephants, which are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a critically endangered species. But in Geumpang, conflicts between elephants and humans are also rampant.

Dedi said conflicts between elephants and humans often occurred because human settlements were too close to the elephants’ routes.

He also said deforestation due to illegal logging and plantations had ignited more conflict between humans and wild animals.

The BKSDA recorded that 12 elephants died in Aceh last year. Eleven of those were wild elephants that had died in human-animal conflicts.

The number includes a case of a female elephant that was found dead after being poisoned in East Aceh on Christmas Day last year, said BKSDA head Sapto Aji Prabowo.

“The government’s effort to reduce the conflicts is still insufficient. The law enforcement process does not get the expected results,” Khalisah Khalid of environmental group Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) said.

“The law is weak, especially to companies that became perpetrators of the destruction of wildlife habitats and human living spaces.”

Read more!