The Jakarta Post
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia conservation expert Sunarto has said Indonesia has the highest number of human-elephant conflicts of all countries in Asia.
'The conflict threats in Indonesia are the highest in Asia. This may be down to intolerant human behavior or drastic decreases of elephants' natural habitats,' he said as quoted by Antara in Pekanbaru on Tuesday.
Based on WWF Indonesia data, India has around 8,000 individual wild elephants, followed by Malaysia (3,885), Myanmar (2,619), Indonesia (2,000), Thailand (1,000), Laos (700), Cambodia (425), China (285) and Vietnam with only around 97 individual animals.
From the figures, Sunarto said the prevalence of human and elephant conflicts in Indonesia stood at 1.2 percent, followed by Thailand (0.4 percent) and Vietnam (0.2 percent). Sri Lanka, meanwhile, recorded a very low number of human-elephant conflicts as a result of its populations' high esteem for the endangered species.
'People in Sri Lanka believe that if an elephant trunk touches soil around their houses, they receive blessings,' he said.
Sunarto said it was indicated that the frequency of human-elephant conflicts in Indonesia was due to increasing encroachment on the beasts' habitat. Sumatran elephants are now fragmented into nine population pockets.
WWF Indonesia's Tesso Nilo flying squad coordinator, Ruswanto, said excessive land conversion had aggravated human-wildlife conflicts in the Tesso Nilo National Park. The territory of wild elephants was increasingly limited, so they were entering human settlements.
In the past month, he said, the Tesso Nilo flying squad had driven away a herd of wild elephants entering human settlements around three or four times. Each herd comprised between 30 and 40 wild elephants, he added.
'The most difficult is for us to chase away a wild elephant moving alone. It usually gets confused and blunders off in the wrong direction,' said Ruswanto.
He explained that Lubuk Kembang Bungo and Air Itam were among the villages near the Tesso Nilo National Park that had often been approached by wild elephants. (dyl/ebf)
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