Sumatran elephant: the state of conservation to date



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Sumatran elephant: the state of conservation to date

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.

The state of conservation to date

In 2004, the Tesso Nilo National Park has been established in Riau Province to protect the Sumatran elephant's habitat.

This forest is one of the last areas large enough to support a viable population of elephants. Between 1986 and 1995, 520 wild elephants were captured and kept in six Elephant Training Centres, which have been established since 1986 in the provinces of Lampung, Aceh, Bengkulu, North and South Sumatra, and Riau.

Capturing wild elephants was stopped in 1999, since the maintenance of captive elephants was too expensive, their management had not become self-financing and because some of the centres were overcrowded. By the end of 2000, 391 elephants were kept in the centres, and a few more in zoos, safari parks and tourist areas.