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Tragic killing of female Sumatran elephant unveils irresponsible act in West Sumatra

A female Sumatran Elephant found slain in West Sumatra, bearing a 1.5 cm bullet hole from jaw to skull, suggests a tragic, irresponsible killing.

With a population of 2400-2800, it’s among Indonesia’s critically endangered species.



INDONESIA: The Bentang Seblat Consortium has reported the distressing finding of a lifeless female Sumatran Elephant in the forests of Mukomuko Regency, Bengkulu Province, West Sumatra Island suspecting it to be the victim of an irresponsible killing.

The consortium’s spokesperson, Ali Akbar, conveyed the disturbing news last Saturday (6 Jan), highlighting the urgency for comprehensive actions to protect these endangered creatures.

The lifeless body of the Sumatran elephant (Elephas Maximus Sumatranus) was discovered on 31 Dec 2023, around 11:47 AM within the PT Bentara Arga Timber (BAT) concession.

Akbar pointed out a bullet hole, approximately 1.5 cm in diameter, penetrating from the lower jaw to the frontal skull.

This tragic incident underscores the threats faced by Sumatran Elephants and the pressing need for immediate conservation efforts.

Sumatran elephant calf (Elephas maximus sumatrensis) Lisa and its mother from Tesso Nilo National Park, Riau, Indonesia.

Expressing his concerns, Akbar emphasized the responsibility of the nation to provide transparent information about the state of the forests and take swift action against wildlife crimes.

He insisted that the Ministry of Environment and Forestry must intervene to prevent unnatural elephant deaths in the future.

The location of the carcass was identified within the Limited Production Forest (HPT) of Air Ipuh 1 Register 65, approximately 3.5 kilometres from the boundaries of the Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS) in Mukomuko, Bengkulu Province.

This finding raises questions about the effectiveness of the existing conservation measures in safeguarding the habitats of these majestic creatures.

Head of Conservation Section I of Bengkulu Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), Said Jauhari, verified the discovery but admitted uncertainty regarding the cause of the elephant’s demise.

“The exact cause of the elephant’s death is unknown,” Said stated on Saturday (6 Jan), urging further investigations.

Egi Saputra, a member of the Bentang Seblat Nature Consortium, disclosed that the elephant’s carcass was found within a state forest burdened by a Business Permit for Forest Utilization (PBPH) under the name of PT Bentara Arga Timber (BAT).

The consortium highlighted that out of the total concession area of 22,020 hectares, only 13,968.50 hectares remained as forest, while the rest had been converted into shrubbery and oil palm plantations.

Furthermore, the consortium recorded a significant transformation of 3,485.16 hectares into shrubbery and hundreds of scattered oil palm plantations, totalling over 4,566.34 hectares.

This disturbing trend aligns with their findings of elephant carcasses in the same concession area in 2021.

According to the analysis by the Bentang Seblat Nature Consortium for the year 2023, out of the total area of Bentang Seblat, only 61.5 per cent (49,700 hectares) remained forested, while the remaining 38.5 per cent (31,100 hectares) had lost its forest cover.

These statistics underscore the growing threats faced by the habitat of Sumatran Elephants.

Egi Saputra, also the Executive Director of Genesis, noted that the deceased elephant was located in the Annual Work Plan (RKT) area of PT BAT, suggesting that the pachyderm might have been driven by the rampant encroachment and logging in the region.

Notably, the location of the elephant’s demise did not align with connectivity routes.

In response to the distressing discovery, the Bengkulu Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) has deployed a team to conduct an examination and autopsy of the Sumatran Elephant carcass reported dead at the PT BAT site in Mukomuko, Bengkulu Province.

The agency received the report from PT BAT personnel, indicating collaborative efforts to investigate and address this alarming incident.

Critically endangered species

The Sumatran Elephant is one of the few species in Indonesia with an alarmingly low population.

Its critically endangered status has been declared for over a decade, and the Indonesian government actively participates in safeguarding this species from extinction.

Both the Sumatran and Borneo Elephants are protected under Law No. 5 of 1990 concerning the Conservation of Biological Resources and Ecosystems.

Several international organizations, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), recognize the critical state of the Sumatran Elephant, emphasizing the need for special attention and care.

This urgency is evident in the dwindling population of Sumatran Elephants.

Currently estimated between 2400 to 2800 in their natural habitat across Sumatra, this figure is believed to be higher than the actual data recorded in 2007.

In Riau, a stronghold for preserving this species, there has been a notable decline in the elephant population.

In 2007, the recorded number of elephants in this region was approximately 210, marking an 84% decrease in just 25 years.

Disturbingly, over 100 elephants were reported dead in 2004.

The population decline can be attributed to various significant factors, with one of the primary causes being rampant illegal hunting for ivory.

Despite being listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), elephant ivory remains a hot commodity in the international market.

Furthermore, habitat loss due to illegal logging, palm oil plantation expansion, and paper production have significantly contributed to the decline.

This habitat destruction confines and disorients the elephants, exacerbated by environmental damage such as landslides and floods resulting from unregulated logging practices.

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