Banda Aceh. A male Sumatran elephant was found dead in the forest of Teuping Panah Village in West Aceh, allegedly killed for its ivory, officials said on Tuesday.
Head of Aceh’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency [BKSDA] Genman Suhefti Hasibuan said members of the agency, along with an elephant handler, had departed to the location to investigate..
“Based on reports from a local village chief, the elephant was said to have died a week ago,” Genman told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday. “The team has had difficulty reaching the location, as there are still a herd of elephants [at the location]. We are bringing an elephant handler to drive away the herd.”
Many scientific reports have claimed that elephants engage in long mourning rituals for their dead, which could be the why the group of animals has remained at the supposed location. To get to the specific area, the team must take a 6-hour long trek into the jungle.
Genman said the agency cannot yet confirm how the elephant died, but according to an investigation conducted by local police and testimony from residents around the area, the elephant was murdered for its tusks.
“It was initially reported that two elephants were found dead, but the village chief insisted that there was only one,” he said. “We will know for sure once the team reaches the location.”
Meanwhile, a local villager claimed the elephant’s tusks were removed with a chainsaw.
“There was a trap around a tree,” said the resident, who declined to be identified. “We suspect ivory hunters put the trap there.”
Genman said that this was the province’s second recorded elephant death this year; an elephant was killed in February after it was caught in a hog trap set up by locals in Southeast Aceh.
“It was not meant to kill the elephant — there were hog pests in the plantation area,” he said.
Elephants living in Aceh have suffered in recent years. Increasing deforestation in the province has resulted in increasing habitat loss and more human and elephant conflicts. Even over the past three months, 20 cases of elephant-related disturbances have been recorded in Aceh.
“It takes a group effort involving all parties from the regional administration, BKSDA and local people to handle the conflicts. If not, the conflicts will continue,” Genman said.