Indonesia: Wild Elephants run amok after trapped calf dies in hole

By Apriadi Gunawan, 28th October 2017;

A herd of 12 wild Sumatran Elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranus) ran amok in a village in Langkat regency, North Sumatra, after failing to rescue an Elephant calf that was trapped in a hole.

Nine coconut trees, eight palm trees, five shacks and a jackfruit tree owned by the local residents of Sumber Waras village, Batang Serangan subdistrict, Langkat regency, were destroyed by the raging Elephants. No one was killed in the incident.

North Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Region II conservation head Herbert Aritonang said the Elephants went on a rampage after they witnessed the baby Elephant die in a narrow hole 1.5 meters deep.

For three days, the wild Elephants attempted to rescue the trapped calf, but they instead pushed it deeper into the hole, which likely existed because of a removed stump, he said. “The baby Elephant’s body was pushed down because the soil around the hole fell down and covered half of its body,” Herbert told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

A joint team of officials from the BKSDA, Mount Leuser National Park and several NGOs found the baby Elephant dead on Sunday. However, the team could not easily recover the corpse because the herd lingered around it, Herbert said.

In order to ensure the safety of the team, they buried the corpse in the hole. “We found the baby Elephant dead with half of its body and four legs buried; only its back and head were visible. So our team covered it with soil to bury it,” Herbert said.

The 12 wild Elephants, comprising two males and several females and baby Elephants, lingered in the village area, which directly borders the national park, several days after the baby Elephant died.

They made loud noises and damaged the area, Herbert said, adding that the joint team had since deployed several personnel to protect the village and the local residents from the Elephants.

The population of Sumatran Elephants, who are a critically endangered species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, plummeted to 1,700 in 2014 from 2,400 in 2007, according to data from the Indonesia Elephant Conservation Forum.

Human-wildlife conflict is suspected to be a contributing factor to the population’s decline.

Several months ago, a 12-year old female Elephant was found dead from suspected poisoning near the national park in Barak Gajah village, Sei Lepan subdistrict, Langkat.

Meanwhile, BKSDA spokesperson Alfianto Siregar said the incident marked the first time wild Elephants showed aggressive behavior in the village.

Groups of wild Elephants usually passed by the village once every three months and they never got into conflicts with the residents, who were used to seeing Elephants in the area, he said.

The team’s investigation found no indication that the baby Elephant died from human interference, such as from poison or an Elephant trap, Alfianto said, adding that the calf died purely because it was trapped.

Source: Jakarta Post

Rescue work: Volunteers medically treat two Sumatran Elephants whose legs were injured by a steel trap in Pancasila hamlet, Sei Lepan district, Langkat North Sumatra, on Monday. The Elephants freed themselves after four days of being snared by the mechanism.
Photo: Apriadi Gunawan

Indonesia: Young Elephants free themselves from trap
By Apriadi Gunawan, 22nd November 2016;

After being trapped in a steel snare for four days, two wild Sumatran Elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranus) in the Mount Leuser National Park (TNGL) managed to free themselves from the trap, although their legs were severely injured and infected.

The mammals were trapped in a community-owned oil palm plantation in Sei Lepan district, Langkat regency, North Sumatra.

Garendel Siboro, head of technical affairs at the North Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), said both of the Elephants were females.

Garendel added that they were considered relatively young, with the smaller one believed to be approximately eight years of age and the larger one estimated at 10 years.

The acting team leader of the Elephant rescue operation said his office had received a report about two Elephants caught in a trap set by local residents, but only after the animals had already managed to free themselves from the legholds, with their injured legs still entangled in steel cables.

Garendel said the BKSDA then dispatched a team including volunteers from several NGOs to look for the Elephants. They were found in a critical state at the plantation in Sei Lepan on Friday.

The BKSDA enlisted the help of two veterinarians to remove the cables, which are as thick as a finger, from the Elephants’ legs.

Citing the report from villagers, Garendel said residents had been afraid to approach the animals, because their mother, approximately 20 years old, had been watching closely.

Garendel added that before being trapped, the two young Elephants had been with their mother in search of food on the plantation, in a herd with 11 more Elephants. Along the way, Garendel said, the two young Elephants were caught in traps deliberately built by farmers concerned about the large number of Elephants near their plantation.

The official explained that the wild Elephants had been forced out of their habitat in the TNGL area because their natural surroundings had been damaged by rampant illegal logging and the expansion of oil palm plantations.

“Many sections of the TNGL buffer zone area have been converted to oil palm plantation. As a result, Elephants have lost their habitat and are forced to seek food outside of their habitat,” said Garendel.

North Sumatra BKSDA Conservation Section head Herbert Aritonang said the condition of the two injured Elephants was improving after they received treatment from the vet team.

The Elephants are now entrusted to a privately owned plantation until they recover and are able to walk normally.

“If they have fully recovered and able to walk normally, then we will release and escort them to their herd to meet the other Elephants,” said Herbert.

Source: Jakarta Post

  • Farmers remove thousands of dead fish from floating cages in the Lake Toba town of Haranggaol in May 2016. The fish died overnight from a lack of oxygen in the water.
  • The lake’s fishing industry lost more than 1,500 tons of Carp (Cyprinus carpio) and Tilapia (Oreochromis sp.) in the fish kill.
  • The mass fish kill took days to clean up. More than 100 Lake Toba fish farmers lost their entire stock, costing them thousands of dollars.

Photos: Binsar Bakkara

Photo Essay: How Pollution Is Devastating an Indonesian Lake
Uncontrolled fish farming, population growth, and logging have all taken a toll on Indonesia’s Lake Toba. Photographer Binsar Bakkara returns to his home region to chronicle the environmental destruction.
By Binsar Bakkara, 26th October 2016;

More than 1,500 tons of fish suddenly turned up dead in Indonesia’s largest lake earlier this year, a mass asphyxiation from a lack of oxygen in the water caused by high pollution levels. The event threatened the livelihoods of hundreds of fish farmers and the drinking water for thousands of people, and it shed light on the rapidly declining conditions in Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world.

Population growth, development, deforestation, and a booming caged fishing industry have severely degraded the lake’s water quality over the last two decades, scientists say. There are now 12,000 cages in the lake, each containing upwards of 10,000 fish, which is double or triple their capacities. Agricultural fertilizers, sewage, and most prominently, fish food have increased the levels of phosphorous in the lake three-fold since 2012, according to a government report. The lake, located in the northern part of Sumatra, is classified as either eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic, meaning it has excessive nutrients that can create dead zones with low oxygen levels.

Photographer Binsar Bakkara grew up on the shores of Lake Toba. While a kid in the 1980s and 1990s, “the clarity level of the water in the lake was very good,” Bakkara says. “Objects at 5-7 meters in depth could be seen clearly. But nowadays, it’s almost impossible to see any objects 2 meters deep because of the murky water.” When he heard news of the fish kill, Bakkara headed back to the lake to document the pollution.

Source: Yale Environment 360

Photo: Ahmad Ridwan Nasution on Beritagar

Indonesia: Phosphorus pollutes Lake Toba, masses of fish dead
By Hans Nicholas Jong, 21st June 2016;

The government’s attempts to turn Lake Toba, the largest permanent body of water in Southeast Asia, into a first-rate tourist destination is facing a major hurdle, as a recent study found that pollution in the lake led to the deaths of millions of fish last month.

The study, conducted by the Environment and Forestry Ministry following the sudden death of millions of fish, revealed that the amount of phosphorus in the lake was 300 percent greater than it was in 2012.

Phosphorus is a common constituent of agricultural fertilizers, manure and organic waste in sewage and industrial effluent. It is an essential element for plant life, but when there is too much of it in water, it can speed up eutrophication (a reduction in dissolved oxygen in water bodies caused by an increase of mineral and organic nutrients) in rivers and lakes.

The mass death of fish in Lake Toba was down to an oxygen shortage, and led to losses of billions of rupiah. The oxygen shortage is believed to be caused by the alarmingly high amount of phosphorus in the water.

The ministry’s pollution director-general, Karliansyah, said that the toxic amount of phosphorus was caused by mismanagement of the lake.

“We have some recommendations. First, the sources of pollutants must be cut by 43 percent or 212,295 kilograms per year,” he said.

The pollutants originate from hotels, residences and agriculture, Karliansyah explained. “Detergents from households and hotels contribute the most. That’s why we’re asking domestic wastewater treatment plants owned by regional tap water companies to be optimized,” he said.

Besides that, the expansion of fish breeding in the lake has also worsened the water quality. The lake is home to 12,000 keramba (floating net cages) owned by local residents and entrepreneurs, but the local administration suggests that the number should be cut to a third of that.

Some cages, moreover, are overcrowded, containing 10,000 fish, despite their capacities being 3,000 — 5,000. The concomitant excessive use of fish fodder has increased the level of phosphorus in the water.

“We recommend that the number of fish in keramba be decreased by 44 percent,” said Karliansyah.

PT Aquafarm Nusantara, one of the biggest keramba fishery companies in Lake Toba, acknowledged the food pellets it had scattered in its keramba in Lake Toba had caused a decrease in water quality, but denied they had had a severe impact.

Long before last month’s fish deaths, the local Batak community had complained about environmental destruction and water pollution in Lake Toba, but the government has yet to outline any concrete actions to halt the damage.

Instead, it plans to promote tourism around Lake Toba, on Samosir island and in seven regencies that share the lake. Direct flights now operate between Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and Silangit Airport. A toll road is also to be built to shorten the travel time to reach the lake overland.

The government recently established the Lake Toba Authority to oversee licenses for the 500-hectare tourism area.

The environment ministry’s river and protected forest director-general, Hilman Nugroho, meanwhile said that the government was well aware of the problem, estimating that 16 percent of the lake was in critical condition.

Source: Jakarta Post

  • A carpet of dead fish in one of the floating net cages in Lake Toba.
  • Masses of dead fish are hauled away in plastic bags.

Photos: Ayat S Karokaro/Mongabay, Mongabay-Indonesia

Indonesia: Millions of fish die suddenly in Indonesia’s giant Lake Toba
Cause of death: not yet clear.
By Ayat S. Karokaro, 11th May 2016;

  • Government researchers are analyzing samples from the lake and should have a prognosis soon.
  • Hundreds of local volunteers have set about clearing the water of fish carcasses, which they fear will harm the ecosystem if left to fester for long.
  • The die-off means huge losses for local farmers.

When the sun rose over Indonesia’s giant Lake Toba on Wednesday last week, fish farmers saw that death in the night had visited their floating cages, and taken everything.

By Friday, millions of Carp (Common Carp) (Cyprinus carpio) and Tilapia (Nile Tilapia) (Oreochromis niloticus) had risen lifeless to the surface — ruinous losses for the aquafarmers.

The cause of death is not yet confirmed: government researchers are still analyzing samples from the lake. But early signs point to a precipitous drop in the water’s supply of dissolved oxygen, the suspected result of both natural and manmade causes.

One cage owner said that a week before the die-off began, the fish in their crowded cages appeared increasingly limp, and could be seen gasping to the surface for air.

Now, hundreds of volunteers are using heavy equipment and plastic bags to haul the stinking carcasses onto land. A giant hole has been prepared for their burial.

Lake Toba occupies the vast caldera of an ancient supervolcano whose eruption some 75,000 years ago ranks as one of the most violent events in geological history.

Volcanic activity is not thought to have triggered the fish deaths, though.

Krismono, a professor who works for the government, pointed to unfavorable weather. A lack of sun had shortcircuited oxygen production in the lake’s turbid depths, he said. It was possible that a mass of the depleted water had set off the catastrophe by rising to the top.

Overstuffed cages exacerbated the situation. “Cages should only have 3,000-5,000 fish, but these cages had 10,000 fish,” Krismono said.

Locals had also complained about water pollution, with some blaming aquaculture companies for contaminating the lake with uneaten food pellets and fish waste.

But the cages in Haranggaol, one of North Sumatra province’s biggest fish producing areas, are owned by individual small farmers.

“We can go bankrupt because of this,” said Hasudungan, a local aquafarmer.

Source: Mongabay

Photos: Ahmad Ridwan Nasution on Beritagar

Indonesia: Fish cages blamed for dead fish, environmental damage
By Apriadi Gunawan and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, 7th May 2016;

Tourists expecting to enjoy the beauty of Lake Toba over the long weekend may be disappointed as the lake has been contaminated by thousands tons of dead fish in the Haranggaol waters, Simalungun, North Sumatra.

In response, 1,000 people of Haranggaol sub-district joined together to remove the carcasses of Goldfish (likely Common Carp) (Cyprinus carpio) and Tilapia (ikan nila) (Nile Tilapia) (Oreochromis niloticus) from the lake on Friday.

Hasudungan Siallagan, a cage-culture fish farmer, said the locals were willing to clean Lake Toba because they wanted to prevent the dead animals from polluting the water, which could affect tourism and make the water unsafe for use by residents.

“Up to 820 tons of dead fish have been lifted from the fish cages in Lake Toba in the past two days. And today, 1,000 tons of dead fish will be lifted out,” Hasudungan told The Jakarta Post in Haranggaol on Friday, adding that 1000 tons of dead fish had been found as of Wednesday.

He added that about 116 cage-culture farmers in Haranggaol had reported that their fish were dead.

“We have been managing fish cages in Lake Toba for decades and this is for the first time we have seen the mass death of fish,” he said.

“All of the fish from two zones are reportedly dead, from a total of six zones of fish cages in Haranggaol. So, there are only four zones left and I haven’t got any news about that,” he said.

Hasudungan said the farmers had suffered billions of rupiah in losses because of the mass death of fish. He also said local government research into the incident had concluded that the cause of the mass death was lack of oxygen.

Head of the Simalungun district Agriculture and Fisheries Agency, Jarinsen Saragih, confirmed that the cause of the mass death of fish in Lake Toba was an oxygen shortage triggered by the postponed fish harvest.

“Lack of solar radiation since April 28 has also aggravated the oxygen shortage,” he told the Post on Friday.

Jarinsen dismissed speculations that the mass death of the fish was because of water pollution in Lake Toba, adding that “the dead fish were only found in the fish cages, not in the lake”.

Meanwhile, the local government of Agam district in West Sumatra plans to decrease half of floating net cages in Maninjau Lake in order to improve the ecosystem.

Head of Agam Maritime and Fisheries Affairs Agency, Ermanto, said that his team had recorded the number of floating net cages and instructed their owners to gradually reduce the amount in the lake.

“The lake water is heavily polluted. There is a lot of sediment from residual feed and tons of dead fish found every year. If left unchecked, fish will not be able to live inside the cages,” Ermanto told the Post recently.

According to the fisheries agency’s records, there are 16,964 fish cage swaths containing 4,000 minnows in the lake area of 99.5 kilometers. A total of 10,765 swaths are made of iron and 6,199 are made of bamboo.

Ermanto said he would regulate that all fish cages must be made of fiber and not iron, which can rust, or bamboo, which can decay.

Currently, there are 5,520 fish cages owned by 146 locals. Each of them own up to 250 cages. The local government plans to limit cage ownership to a maximum 20 fish cages per owner.

Source: Jakarta Post

Photos: Okezone

Indonesia: Hundreds of tons of dead fish clog farmers’ nets in Lake Toba
By Arnold H Sianturi & Ratri M. Siniwi, 4th May 2016;

Fish farmers at Lake Toba in North Sumatra were shocked to find their nets filled with dead fish on Tuesday night (03/05).

The fish farms located at Haranggaol in Simalungun district commonly raise Carp (likely Common Carp) (Cyprinus carpio) and Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Many people living around Lake Toba have taken up fish farming in recent years.

According to local fish farmer Parlaungan, the incident resulted in a total estimated loss of 320 tons of fish, worth billions of rupiah.

This has never happened before. Usually we can count the number of dead fish we remove per day. But this time, all the fishes in the nets were dead,“ Parlaungan said on Tuesday.

Another farmer, Hasudungan, believes the fish died from a lack of oxygen in the water.

"The oxygen content in the cage is only 0.8 [parts per thousand], while the standard is 2. We can go bankrupt because of this,” Hasudungan said.

On Wednesday, Simalungun’s department of fishery and livestock sent a team of experts to Haranggaol to investigate the high number of fish deaths.

Officer Jarinsen Saragih said his team was still unable to determine the reason, but that they suspect that the incident was indeed caused by a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water.

Source: Jakarta Globe