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.