Sumatran elephant found dead and mutilated in Aceh

A Sumatran elephant has been found dead and mutilated in Indonesia’s Aceh province. The animal had its tusks removed and appeared to have gunshot wounds.

The chief of the Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), Genman Suhefti Hasibuan, was quoted as saying the carcass of the male elephant, estimated to be about 20 years old, was discovered on Monday in the Karang Hampa village in the West Aceh district.

A news agency report said an autopsy indicated that the elephant died about month ago. “The elephant managed to run for around 100 metres (330 feet) from the place it was shot,” Agence France Press (AFP) quoted Hasibuan as saying.

Hasibuan said a conservation agency team was sent to the area and police had also launched an investigation.

According to AFP, Hasibuan said the killing was evidence that elephants were still being hunted for their ivory tusks in the area.

Dozens of Sumatran elephants have been killed in recent years. They are not only targeted by poachers; they are also killed by local villagers who regard them as pests that destroy their plantations.

As the rainforest habitat of elephants and orangutans is destroyed to make way for oil palm plantations, the animals increasingly stray into populated areas to try and find food. Some elephants are poisoned by fruit laced with cyanide.

In February, the remains of seven poisoned Sumatran elephants – an adult female, five male teenagers, and a male calf – were found just outside the Tesso Nilo national park. It was believed that they died five months earlier.

Also in February, police in Riau province arrested eight members of a poaching syndicate and confiscated tusks worth more than 30,000 US$ after the arrest of a local tusks buyer. The group admitted killing at least six elephants in Riau and the neighbouring Jambi province.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified the Sumatran elephant as “critically endangered”. There are estimated to be between 2,400 and 2,800 of the animals remaining in the wild – a 50 percent drop in numbers since 1985.

The WWF says the animals face extinction in less than 30 years unless the destruction of their habitat is halted.

Rampant expansion of plantations and the mining industry has destroyed nearly 70 percent of the elephants’ forest habitat over the past 25 years, according to the WWF.


A dead Sumatran elephant discovered in 2012. Poisoning was suspected. Photograph: Hotli Simanjuntak/EPA