The Jakarta Post
Violent conflict between humans and elephants has continued to spread in Aceh after dozens of elephants invaded a residential area in East Aceh regency and occupied the oil palm plantations of local residents.
Since last week, residents of Seumanah Jaya subdistrict in Ranto Peureulak district have been forced to stay away from their plantations after a herd of some 50 wild elephants took over the area.
'We no longer know what to do to get rid of the wild elephants,' Sumanah Jaya subdistrict head Jamian told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Jamian said that the wild elephants had destroyed local residents' oil palms and other plants in the area. However, no assistance had been lent so far by the local administration to put an end to the invasion.
'If the administration does nothing about it, don't blame us if we take our own way of dealing with the elephants,' he said.
Jamian's threat is not a mere boast.
A female elephant was found dead on Thursday at the location apparently as a result of electrocution.
Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) head Genma Hasibuan confirmed the death, saying that the ill-fated elephant had been killed by electrified barb wire, allegedly installed by local residents.
Genma said his office was currently investigating the case.
'According to some locals, they deliberately put up the electrified trap to get rid of other animals but it turned out to be an elephant that passed through the area,' he said.
Conflict between humans and elephants has continued to increase over the past several years in Aceh mainly due to the conversion of protected forest to plantation and residential areas.
Last month, residents of Sejahtera hamlet, Rimba Raya subdistrict, Pintu Rime Gayo district, Bener Meriah regency, fled their village after a herd of about 30 elephants repeatedly invaded had the area.
Genma, however, said there must be some reason why the elephants invaded the residential area.
Theoretically, he said, elephants migrated by following tracks that were already there.
'It's people who built residential complexes and plantations in the elephants' habitat and tracks. They [the elephants] will always return to the tracks, just as they have now,' he said.
The population of Sumatran elephants has been drastically decreasing over the last four years.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has raised the status of Sumatran elephants from crucial to critical, or just a step away from the status of extinct in the wild.
The status of extinct is the worst status and it has been given to elephants both in Asia and Africa.
Currently, the population of Sumatran elephants is estimated to be between 2,400 and 2,800. Such a figure exhibits a 50 percent decline compared to the population of 2007, which registered between 3,000 and 5,000 elephants.
Apart from struggling to survive illegal hunting, Sumatran elephants, particularly the young, are also prone to the elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) disease.
The Medan-based Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC), for example, reported that EEHV had killed five young elephants in Way Kambas, Lampung, in 2012, and four others between October of last year and February of this year.
EEHV-infected elephants suffer from lower immunity, swollen faces and blue tongues.
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