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Projects in Sumatra, Indonesia

Filtering by Tag: HEC

Way Kambas ERU Update

Vanessa Gagne

A busy February and March for Way Kambas ERU’s...

With our continued support, the Elephant Response Units (ERU’s) in Sumatra, Indonesia have had a busy February and March.  Their work not only helps to alleviate elephant-human conflict but also helps protect the Way Kambas National Park from illegal activities and ensure the survival of present Sumatran elephant populations.

The Bungur, Tegal Yoso, and Mraghayu ERU’s conduct regular monitoring patrols inside and along the National Park boarders.  During these two months, while on patrol the ERU’s removed and destroyed five wildlife snares inside the park as well as a bridge for logging camps. Six instances of illegal logging were also reported to the National Parks Department.  Multiple plots of illegal grass cutting for grazing were noted and one group of cattle was found with no sign of ownership.   Three dead elephants were found within park boarders which included an adult male, adult female, and one calf.

Mahout with disarmed snare

Mahout with disarmed snare

February was an active month for wild elephants in and around the park.  Elephant tracks are a good way of verifying elephant activity and were found over fifteen times during the two months inside the park.  Groups of elephants that were directly observed ranged in size from 5-30 elephants. A herd of 8 elephants with two female calves were observed in February by the Tegal Yoso ERU and once again the following month by the Bungur ERU.

The direct involvement of local community members with the ERUs is vital to ensuring the community has a shared sense of investment in and responsibility for the future of wild elephants. A huge thank you goes to the ERU teams, forest police, and the local communities who are coming together to help save the critically endangered Sumatran elephant. Thanks to all of our donors for helping make these patrols possible.

CONSERVATION AND RESPONSE UNITS WAY KAMBAS, SUMATRA, INDONESIA

Vanessa Gagne

Prepared by Elena Pranatio and Dr. Christopher Stremme

The Conservation Response Units (CRU) in the Way Kambas National Park (WKNP), which are employing captive elephants and mahouts from the Way Kambas Elephant Conservation Center to conduct human elephant conflict management and habitat patrols, are hugely effective and contribute much to reducing human-elephant conflict (HEC) and securing the WKNP habitat.

The first two CRUs  were established with the construction of permanent basecamps in 2011 and 2013 on the northwestern border of the WKNP in the areas of Bungur and Tegal Yoso.  This is one of the HEC hotspots having caused ongoing loss of almost all crops close to the WKNP border; therefore leading to great resentment against the WKNP and wild elephants from local communities.

The two CRU base camps at Bungur and Tegal Yoso each have 5 captive elephants used for habitat patrols and, if needed, to drive off wild herds that  venture into farmland. During daily routine patrols the two units cover more than 15 km of WKNP border and a total of about 400km² of national park area. Regular staff of each CRU unit consists of 5 mahouts from the WKNP and 4 people from the local communities who are employed and trained as permanent staff of the CRU teams. Besides conducting patrols and wild elephant drives inside the national park, the CRU teams have also encouraged teams from local communities to build observation posts outside the WKNP on its border area and conduct regular night watches to detect wild elephants early and guard their valuable crops. The teams from the local communities have been trained in techniques of how to drive away wild elephants if they get close to the WKNP border and if needed,  get backed up by the experienced CRU teams with its elephants.

A communication system, via mobile phones, between the CRU teams and the local community teams has been established and functions as an early warning tool ensuring ongoing information exchange between the CRU and local communities about elephant migrations close to the WKNP border.  This allows for  the timely coordination for needed crop guarding and wild elephant drives.

Currently 11 villages in the Bungur – Tegal Yoso area benefit from and participate in this HEC mitigation strategy with the CRUs. As a result of this work, the occurrence of incidents where wild elephants actually succeeded to pass the WKNP border and reach farmland has been reduced by more than 70%. The actual loss of crops due to the early warning and quick intervention has been reduced by more than 90%.

Due to the massive decrease of loss of crops, and thus increased income, the local communities have become much more willing to withdraw from most illegal activities inside the WKNP such as logging, cultivation, poaching, and cattle grazing and have become willing to accept the CRU’s law enforcement role for the protection of the WKNP area as undisturbed habitat for wild elephants. This has led to a reduction of such illegal activities by more than 90% in the Bungur-Tegal Yoso area.

Due to the success of the Bungur and Tegal-Yoso CRUs, in 2014 the head of the National Park has asked donors such as IEF, AES, and USFWS, who have supported the establishment and operation of the CRUs, for support to establish a new third CRU at the southwestern border of the WKNP, which is another HEC hotspot. IEF, USFWS, and AES agreed to support the establishment of this new CRU and in November 2014 the construction of the new basecamp in the Margahayu region was started. In January 2015 the CRU team were based at the camp while still under construction. The initial team consisted of 5 captive elephants and 5 mahouts from the WKNP Elephant Conservation Center. Shortly after the team arrived 4 young local people from nearby communities were employed and started to be trained as CRU team members. Training for such new team members consists of:

  • Captive elephant management and care
  • Habitat navigation by using basic orientation points in the area, maps, and GPS
  • Wild elephant behavior, approach and driving strategies
  • Conservation laws and regulations

Initial staff training and camp construction were completed in April 2015 and the new CRU is fully operational. During its daily routine patrols a border area of about 10km is covered. During the past months the CRU team has constantly monitored the movement of wild elephant herds close to the WKNP border. Already several situations have been encountered by the team where a large herd of more than 30 animals intended to cross the NP border to venture into villages and farmland. The team has managed these incidents by driving the elephants away from the border back into the forest area of the WKNP. Such drive operations often last for several days because during the drive, the wild elephants initially retreat in the nearby forest, but during the next night they try to enter into the farmland again. This means the CRU team has to stand by on guard for several days until the wild herds finally give up and retreat back deeper into the WKNP forest area.

The people from local communities start to respond positively to the presence and activities of the new CRU as major crop raiding events by wild elephants have been prevented since the CRU has become active.  The team has started to approach the people from the local communities to start building joint crop guarding and HEC mitigation strategies like in Bungur and Tegal-Yoso. The CRU team has already encouraged and supported the first community members for the construction of two observation posts outside the WKNP directly on its border with farmland. These posts are now already used for crop guarding during the night time by local community members.

The CRUs have become a very successful and important part of the WKNP habitat protection and HEC mitigation strategy. The successful implementation of the day to day field work is ensured by teams of highly motivated and skilled staff from the national park in close collaboration with local communities.

A major obstacle is that the WKNP agency itself does not have sufficient resources to fully finance the ongoing operation of CRUs. Therefor the continuation and possible expansion of the successful CRU work relies much on external funding support.

ACEH - A real team effort

Vanessa Gagne

Asian Elephant Support is participating in a significant endeavor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.   This innovative effort, the “Aceh Conservation, Environment, Humanity” (ACEH) program, is working to engage legislators in Aceh Province, Indonesia.

Conservation biologists alone have not been able to slow down the rapid decline in numbers of wildlife species and their wild habitats around the world.  Human-elephant conflict (HEC) has been identified as a major threat to elephant conservation by all Asian elephant range country governments.  The greatest danger HEC poses to elephants is the antagonism it generates among local communities toward wildlife.  

The specific goals of ACEH are:

  • Strengthen the concept of “sustainable development”, which has been mandated by the Indonesian Constitution.
  • Support the formation and operation of the Aceh Sustainable Development Caucus.
  • Facilitate the flow of information about sustainable development to legislators in order to enhance the development of public policies that incorporate sustainability principles.
  • Provide technical consultation to Aceh’s Parliament on a variety of issues such as land-use planning.

In January and February of this year, the ACEH team devoted significant time to conducting presentations and meetings with 13 of the 15 political parties in Aceh during the lead up to the local elections in April.  ACEH is building a network of civil society organizations to contribute to this effort.  At present ACEH is planning the agenda and structure for the Caucus, which is expected to begin in October 2014 when newly elected legislators start their terms.

We want to share with you the ACEH brochure, in English, that summarizes this project.  We appreciate our supporters who, in turn, enable us to be a small part of this major effort for wildlife in Aceh and throughout Asia.

Field Update - Snare Victim Yekti

Chris Reifschneider

In our January 2014 newsletter, AES announced our 3 year commitment to the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC). We would like to share an update on a couple of elephant projects from our VESSWIC partners.

The Sumatran elephant is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered, but every birth gives us hope for the future of this species.  On January 16, 2014 at the Way Kambas Elephant Conservation Center, the elephant Mela, gave birth to a healthy male calf weighing approximately 200 pounds.  This was Mela’s second calf.Unfortunately, she attacked and killed her first calf in 2011 immediately after it was born. This time she was a bit nervous, but remained reasonably calm towards the calf. After a short time she accepted the calf and allowed it to nurse. Two months later, she has adapted well to her role as a mother and the calf is doing well.

Back in November 2013, a female calf was rescued from the wild with a serious wire snare injury to her front left leg. VESSWIC provided the medical supplies for her treatment and is also providing food and milk supplements.  They are happy to report that the calf, named Yekti, is also doing well.

Human-elephant conflict (HEC) is still a growing problem for both humans and elephant in Sumatra, Indonesia.  In January VESSWIC Elephant Healthcare Program veterinarians assisted the Nature Conservation Agency and Frankfurt Zoological Society and fitted two wild elephants with GPS collars.  This is part of an HEC monitoring program that is being conducted in the Bukit Tiga Puluh forest area in the province of Jambi.

By working together, we can make a difference in the health, welfare, and conservation of elephants in Asian range countries.  AES is proud to support these dedicated individuals who are working hard every day.

 

Raju, the orphaned calf

Chris Reifschneider

Emaciated Raju

Emaciated Raju

Raju was not even a month old when he became an orphan. With an increase in the number of humans and a decrease in elephant habitat in Sumatra, Indonesia, it is very possible that Raju’s mother was shot and killed as a result of human-elephant conflict (HEC). Our partners at Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC) rushed to the village to provide assistance for this tiny calf, which is not an easy task due to the remote location of many villages. Raju initially began to gain strength after receiving IV fluids and was tolerating the milk replacement. However, the harsh reality is that with an animal that young, the chances of survival are low and unfortunately, he did not survive.

Racju receiving the IV

Racju receiving the IV

HEC is a problem that continues to increase throughout Asia. While it is taking a toll on the current elephant population, it is also affecting the next generation. More and more calves are being orphaned as the number of conflicts increase.

By losing their mothers at an early age these orphans have an uphill battle to survive and calves as young as Raju have little chance of survival. HEC is an extremely complicated issue and it will take a holistic approach to achieve results, but the importance of this battle is apparent not only for the current population, but for generations to come.

Stay tuned for more information on efforts to mitigate HEC including the projects that AES supports with your help.