Women adventure in Sumatra rescuing elephants


Aslan Shand, Echo Net Daily

Date Published
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The conflict between people and animals for space and food is ever present and growing as human populations increase and more land is developed. In Indonesia this is having devastating consequences on the lives of the endangered Sumatran elephant.

Having lost 70 per cent of its natural habitat in the last 25 years the population has been reduced to around 1000. Though the Indonesian government has set up a network of national parks wild elephants still raid the farms of local villagers who are themselves only just able to survive. This can lead to the elephants being injured as farmers defend their crops while poachers lay traps to harvest ivory leaving the elephants severely maimed or dead.

The elephant conservation centre (ECC) at Way Kambas national park in the south of the island is where young inured or orphaned elephants are taken, however, once they have become dependant on humans they cannot be released back into the wild. They currently have 70 elephants now in their care.

In March, a group of six local business women travelled to Way Kambas, with international park tours, to meet the orphans, including Eleanor with a broken leg and blinded eye, Erin with amputated trunk, and Yeti who is now doing well after a terrible leg wound at age  three months. They wanted to learn about issues surrounding Sumatran elephants and to contribute to elephant welfare at the Centre.

Elephants at the ECC are trained as elephant response units to help local villagers drive wild elephants away from their crops back into the forest, protecting them and defending farms from raids reducing elephant and human conflict as well as promoting the elephants as a solution to the problem.

Due to shortfalls in funding and the the degraded habitat in the national park the elephants are not able to properly feed or be effectively cared for.

‘Currently these working and rescued elephants are starving due to insufficient food of low quality,’ said Dr Claire Oelrichs who leads the Sumatran tour.

A plan to create a 20ha elephant food farm to feed the babies and other critically endangered Sumatran elephants has been developed.

‘The Byron ladies negotiated hard and now park managers have agreed to support the development of a food farm. This project is a win-win, as the farm will not only improve the condition and lives of the elephants, but will also employ local impoverished farmers who regularly have these hungry animals raid their crops. Further the farm is financially sustainable over time, as the government has agreed to provide ongoing support for it.’

The project will cost $70,000 to get off the ground and they are aiming to raise $25,000 towards this.

‘We are also working with other partners to come in on the project,’ continued Claire.

‘We currently have a commitment from Taronga zoo and are hoping for others.’

But they still need your help and are seeking donations towards the project.

To find out more click here. To donate click here.