Authorities on alert after 2 elephants found dead in Aceh (Indonesia)


The Jakarta Post

Date Published

Local authorities and law enforcers are investigating the recent death of two Sumatran elephants in Aceh Jaya regency, Aceh, after their preliminary investigation suggested that the endangered animals died from poisoning.

Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) head Genman Suhefti Hasibuan said the agency’s examination team had found blood flowing from the mouth and anus of the two female elephants, which were found dead on Wednesday by residents in Panggong subdistrict, Krueng Sabee district.
“These are strong indications that the elephants have died because of poisoning,” Genman said on Thursday as quoted by
The agency’s team, which consists of a veterinarian, mahouts and forest rangers, has also collected samples from the animals’ organs.
“The samples will be sent to the National Police’s forensic laboratory for follow-up examinations and legal purposes,” Genman said, adding that the team had not found any wounds on the elephants.
The bodies of the two elephants, which were 15 and 2 years of age, were lying some 10 meters apart from one another.
With the discovery of these latest two cases, the agency has recorded five deaths this year of Sumatran elephants that died in suspicious circumstances.
The agency, Genman added, had reported the case to local police for further investigation.
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Indonesia recently revealed that the elephant population in Sumatra continued to decrease over the past decade, mainly because of illegal hunting, particularly in Riau, Aceh and North Sumatra.
WCS said the population of Sumatran elephants was currently no larger than 1,000 animals, or 69 percent lower than 25 years ago.
The decrease in the population of Sumatran elephants has caused the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list the species as endangered.
Last month, law enforcers in Lampung launched an investigation into the killing of Yongki, a tame Sumatran elephant that was found dead at the South Bukit Barisan National Park (TNBBS).
The 35-year-old male elephant had been found with severe wounds at the base of his missing two tusks.
TNBBS head Timbul Batubara said Yongki’s body had been discovered just 300 meters behind his patrol camp in Pemerihan, West Pesisir regency, which is situated some 120 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital of Bandar Lampung.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Lampung Police special criminal investigation directorate head Sr. Comr. Dicky Patria Negara said the police had so far interrogated 20 witnesses in the case.
The police, he said, believed that Yongki’s tusks had been shipped out of the province to the illegal market overseas.
“Our focus now is on looking for the suspects. It is clear that there are more than two people [involved in the murder],” he was quoted as saying by Antara news agency.
Apart from the struggle to survive illegal poaching, Sumatran elephants have seen their continued survival at risk, with many babies dying over the past three years from Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV).
The North Sumatra-based Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC), for example, reported that the EEHV virus had killed five young elephants in Way Kambas, Lampung, in 2012 and four others between October last year and February. Another calf died in Aceh in February.
“While adult elephants can survive EEHV attacks, many calves have died [because of EEHV]. The virus is threatening their population,” Muhammad Wahyu of VESSWIC recently said.
EEHV-infected elephants, according to Wahyu, suffer from lower immunity, swollen faces and blue tongues.