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Projects in Sumatra, Indonesia

Filtering by Tag: conservation response unit

ERU Video

Vanessa Gagne

Straight from Sumatra, Indonesia!

Check out this video of the Margahayu ERU (Elephant Response Unit) team when they meet a herd of wild elephants! This is one of the many reasons these teams are so valuable.   Riding on the trained elephants, it is amazing how close they can get to the wild elephants.  They get a true assessment of the numbers, condition, and sex ratios of elephants in Sumatra.  The information they are able to gather will be used to determine conservation strategies to help save this critically endangered species.

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.

ERU Field Report

Vanessa Gagne

A herd of 15 Sumatran elephants including one calf observed by the ERU in November 2015

A herd of 15 Sumatran elephants including one calf observed by the ERU in November 2015

Way Kambas National Park (WKNP) is located at the southern tip of Sumatra on the eastern coast of Lampung province. It is one of the oldest reserves in Indonesia and occupies 1,300 sq km.  Home to the critically endangered Sumatran elephant and many other endangered species, WKNP is a treasure that needs to be protected.  

AES has had the opportunity to support the Conservation Response Units (CRU’s), also referred to as Elephant Response Units (ERU’s), over the last several years.  This includes recently donating funds to supply the CRU elephants with much needed food during an exceptionally long dry season. With the help of the communities surrounding the Park, these CRU’s teams do monthly patrols in the forest to monitor for illegal wildlife activity and to monitor wild elephant populations. They also educate the people in the communities on the importance of preserving the forests and help mitigate human-elephant conflicts.

We want to share with you a special look into the activities of the CRU’s in WKNP. Please visit here to see a monthly report outlining the activities.

And rest assured, your donations are making a difference for Asian elephants!

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.

7th Indonesian Mahout Workshop

Vanessa Gagne

A wonderful group photo of all workshop participants, until next year!

A wonderful group photo of all workshop participants, until next year!

The 7th Indonesian Mahout Workshop hosted by FOKMAS (Indonesian Mahout Communication Forum) was held from February 24-27, 2015, at the Minas government elephant training center  located in the province of Riau in Sumatra, Indonesia. Seventy participants attended the workshop and represented most of the Sumatran government elephant camps, Conservation Response Units (CRUs), and other elephant patrol units in Sumatra, as well as several zoos and safari parks from Sumatra, Java, and Bali. The majority of participants were mahouts, but some camp managers and veterinarians from private facilities also attended.

The Indonesian Mahout Workshops were initiated in 2006 at the Seblat government elephant conservation center in Bengkulu province (Sumatra) to provide an opportunity for mahouts to share information, strengthen their professionalism, and influence elephant conservation in Indonesia more effectively.

Banner showing all the sponsors that helped make the workshop possible

Banner showing all the sponsors that helped make the workshop possible

Several NGOs, including the International Elephant Foundation, Asian Elephant Support, and the Elephant Managers Association, provided workshop support to assist this professional training opportunity for mahouts. General issues discussed during the workshop included problems mahouts encounter in their elephant work and habitat conservation efforts, finding solutions to improve the care and management of Indonesia’s wild and captive elephants, and means to create an information network with colleagues throughout Asia. FOKMAS and the Mahout Workshops are supported by Indonesian government conservation agencies

During the first two days of the workshop several presentations and an informal hands-on session were given by visiting colleagues from the Myanma Timber Enterprise (MTE). The group from Myanmar included 2 MTE elephant veterinarians, an MTE manager, and a senior mahout (Singaung) from an MTE timber camp.  The Indonesian mahouts were very attentive to the presentations from their Myanmar counterparts, and good discussions resulted from the interactions.  The participants from Myanmar were impressed with the level of interest from the Indonesian mahouts and expressed the intention to develop similar meeting and training opportunities for mahouts in Myanmar.  As you may remember, Asian Elephant Support has helped fund both veterinarian and mahout workshops in Myanmar.

In addition to presentations, training in field navigation using maps and GPS units was conducted during the Workshop. This training was divided into two parts: theoretical background and hands-on practice in locations within the Minas camp area. All mahouts were instructed about various skills to deal with wildlife monitoring and illegal activities such as data collection and recording, GPS instruction, human-wildlife conflict mitigation techniques, and community relations. Building capacity of the mahouts with skills for improved forest protection and wildlife conservation also promotes improved job performance of these individuals.  

The final part of the Mahout Workshop included discussion among the participants about improving elephant facilities and management in Indonesia, and a wrap up of the field navigation and GPS sessions.

Lecture time

Lecture time

These Mahout Workshops and interactions with fellow mahouts from around Asia are very important for the mahout staff across Indonesia.  There is a need to continue these regional professional exchanges and training as this has resulted in positive outcomes.  In Indonesia, the government has requested input from FOKMAS about mitigating elephant conflict.  FOKMAS is currently in the planning stages for the next Mahout Workshop and will continue hosting mahout training modules so this level of staff can be more effective participants in elephant conservation initiatives in Indonesia.

Asian Elephant Support appreciates the opportunity we have had to be a part of this educational effort thanks to the support of our donors.  So that we will be able to help fund future workshops, please consider making a donation.  Our thanks!

Update - Elephants at ERU camps and Sun Bear release

Vanessa Gagne

As usual, the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC) veterinarians are working diligently for elephants and other wildlife in Sumatra.  In August, the team visited the Elephant Conservation Centers (ECC) in Minas and Sebanga in the province of Riau.  After VESSWIC assisted the Nature Conservation Agency (BKSDA) with a few cases involving wild and captive elephants, the head of BKSDA Riau sent a formal request for regular health care support.  VESSWIC will be collaborating with the BKSDA to improve the care of the elephants in the Riau elephant camps.  The initial plan is to do quarterly visits for the next 12 months. During this trip the vet team was invited to visit a small conservation forest area inside a pulp and paper production forest. The company with in this conservation area, Arar Abadi Pulp and Paper Company, currently manages 6 elephants, but the management of these elephants will be going back to BKSDA Riau.  The BKSDA and Ara Abadi would like to establish an elephant patrol unit in the Bengkalis district, which is an area of high human-elephant conflict. VESSWIC was asked to evaluate the health and general management of the elephants to determine if they could be used for patrol.  Furthermore, BKSDA has asked VESSWIC to provide technical assistance to establish this new Conservation Response Unit (CRU)/ Elephant Patrol Unit.

Last medical check before transport

Last medical check before transport

In our last update in the April newsletter, VESWIC had assisted BKSDA Aceh with a sun bear rescue.  We are happy to report that two of the sun bears that were being kept in quarantine at the BKSDA headquarters have been released into the Ulu Massen forest area. One of the bears had been confiscated from an illegal private holding facility and the other had been injured in a wire snare and brought to the headquarters for treatment.  

Loading the boat to go deep into the forest

Loading the boat to go deep into the forest

With your support, AES has been able to make a three year commitment to VESSWIC to help them continue the work they are doing for the wildlife and humans living in Sumatra.

Leaving the transport cage

Leaving the transport cage