The World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia has called on provincial and central government authorities to conduct an immediate investigation into the deaths of 12 Sumatran elephants, all of whom were found dead in Aceh and Riau provinces in the last three months.
Dede Suhendra, a WWF program manager in Aceh province, said authorities have not yet identified the cause of the deaths.
“An examination is being conducted right now in the police office’s forensic laboratory in Aceh province,” Suhendra said in a statement yesterday, adding that poisoning was one suspected cause.
Suhendra said increased plantation development in known habitats had pitted owners against the elephants.
“On the one hand, humans expand their economic activity by opening new plantations. On the other, the elephants respond to this encroachment on their habitats and attack humans, which may drive some owners to poison them.”
Six elephants were found dead in the Tesso Nilo National Park in Riau province between March and May.
More recently, a young elephant was found dead in the park on June 7 with its tusks removed.
Suhendra further called for new protocols to minimize future conflicts and better manage economic development without endangering the elephants’ habitats.
Earlier this month, WWF Indonesia updated the status of Sumatran elephants from endangered to critically endangered.
There are between 2,400 and 2,800 Sumatran elephants left in the wild, down from 3,000 to 5,000 last year, according to WWF data.
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