Sumatran elephant: the situation in 2022

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Sumatran elephant: the situation in 2022

The Sumatran elephant is at risk of extinction: a population census conducted in 2000 indicated that only 2000-2500 wild elephants remain. The Sumatran elephant was once widespread on the island, and Riau Province was believed to have the largest elephant population in Sumatra with over 1,600 individuals in the 1980s.

In 1985, an island-wide rapid survey suggested that between 2,800 and 4,800 elephants lived in all eight mainland provinces of Sumatra in 44 populations. Twelve of these populations occurred in Lampung Province, where only three populations were extant in 2002 according to surveys carried out between September 2000 and March 2002.

The population in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park was estimated at 498 individuals, while the population in Way Kambas National Park was estimated at 180 individuals. The third population in Gunung Rindingan Way Waya complex was considered to be too small to be viable over the long-term.

Due to conversion of forests into human settlements, agricultural areas and plantations, many of the Sumatran elephant populations have lost their habitat to humans. As a result, many elephants have been removed from the wild or directly killed.

In addition to conflict related death, elephants are also targets of poaching for their ivory. Between 1985 and 2007, 50% of Sumatran elephants died. Between 1980 and 2005, 69% of potential Sumatran elephant habitat was lost within just one elephant generation, and the driving forces that caused this habitat loss still remain essentially unchecked.

There is clear, direct evidence from two provinces, Riau and Lampung, which shows entire elephant populations have disappeared as a result of habitat loss. Most of the elephants found in Sumatran camps were captured after crop-raiding in protected areas.

The reduction of the elephants' habitat for illegal conversion of agriculture still continues. Between 2012 and 2015, 36 elephants were found dead in Aceh Province due to poisoning, electrocution and traps. Most dead elephants were found near palm oil plantations.

Conservationists think that Sumatran elephants may become extinct in less than ten years if poaching is not stopped. Sumatran elephants prefer areas of low elevation and gentler slopes, including those along the river and mountain valleys; humans also prefer these same features, which results in competition between elephants and humans for the same space, and at all times leads to a loss of preferred elephant habitat.

Also, crop protection efforts, which mainly consist of chasing elephants out of crop fields or moving them deeper into the forest away from the crops, has restricted access for elephants to these areas.