Sumatra elephants probably poisoned for revenge
Three critically-endangered Sumatran elephants have been found dead in Indonesia’s Riau Province; local authorities believe that they were probably poisoned in a revenge attack by palm oil plantation workers.
Included a 1 year old baby
The decomposing carcases of the female elephants, including a year-old baby, were found just outside the Tesso Nilo National Park. Park chief Kupin Simbolon said “We believe they died from poisoning. The elephants probably entered a palm oil plantation and destroyed the huts belonging to workers, who then sought revenge by poisoning them.”
Indonesia’s endangered elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans are increasingly threatened by their shrinking habitat in the jungle, which is commonly cleared for commercial farming or felled for lumber. Only 3,000 Sumatran elephants are believed to remain in the wild, a drop of 50% since 1985.
Elephant Flying Squad
In 2004, WWF introduced the first Elephant Flying Squad to Riau Province in central Sumatra, to a village near the newly established Tesso Nilo National Park. It was a way to bring short-term relief to the intense conflict between people and elephants there and to create support for elephant conservation among hard-hit communities.
An Elephant Flying Squad consists of nine rangers with noise and light-making devices, a pick-up truck and four trained elephants that drive wild elephants back into the forest whenever they threaten to enter villages. It has proven to be very effective in reducing losses suffered by local communities near Tesso Nilo.
Sumatran elephants – declining rapidly
By 2008, Sumatran elephants had become locally extinct in 23 of the 43 ranges identified in Sumatra in 1985, indicating a very significant decline of the Sumatran elephant population. By 2008, the elephant was locally extinct in one of Sumatra’s eight mainland provinces (West Sumatra) and at risk of being lost from North Sumatra Province too. Only ca. 350 elephants survived across nine separate ranges in Riau Province, which in 1985 was considered to have the largest elephant population in Sumatra with over 1,600 individuals.