The Flying Squad, a team of tame elephants and their mahouts, managed jointly by the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), Tesso Nilo National Park (TNTN) Agency and the WWF-Indonesia's Riau program, has lost another of its members after Tino, a 2-year-old female elephant, was found dead in the national park on Friday morning.
Erwin Daulay, the elephant's caregiver, was scheduled to take Tino and her mother Ria to a bathing site when he found the young elephant's body.
'Erwin found Tino with her head in the dirt, around 10 meters from where Ria was tied up. She had continued to look at her baby elephant,' WWF-Indonesia's Riau program spokesperson Samsidar said on Tuesday.
Samsidar said that one day before Tino died, the elephant was observed participating actively in all of the Flying Squad's normal routines. 'She was very active, swimming and diving with all the elephants in the Flying Squad team when they took a bath together in the Perbekalan River in the Tesso Nilo National Park area.'
Tino was the fourth baby elephant born to a Flying Squad member. Mahouts at the WWF's Riau program camp in Lubuk Kembang Bunga village, Pelalawan regency, Riau, named her Tino, taken from betino, which means 'woman with a calm demeanor' in the area's local language.
After Erwin reported the discovery, the Pelalawan administration's animal husbandry agency's veterinarian, Muchlisin, conducted an autopsy at the location.
'The autopsy took place until midnight on Friday and it ran a bit slowly due to rain,' said Samsidar.
She denied accusations that WWF-Indonesia had stalled the publication of information on the incident for four days as it occurred in a conservation area.
'Initially, we wanted to publish this case on Sunday morning but we had to first wait for the TNTN head's approval for the publication as it is under the [TNTN] agency's authority,' said Samsidar.
She said some of the elephant's internal organs had been sent to a laboratory at the Veterinary Agency in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, to ascertain the cause of death. 'Usually, the results of laboratory tests are available in around two weeks,' she added.
Meanwhile, Muchlisin said he did not find any indications of violence on Tino's body. 'But there was a red rash, which could have been caused by accumulating gas or bloating in her intestines. There are many factors that could cause such a condition, one of which is the consumption of too much young grass,' he said.
TNTN head Tandya Tjahjana said he had assigned civil servant investigators to the case. 'They have traced areas around the location where she was found dead to see whether there is a particular situation that could danger elephants in the area,' said Tandya.
The BKSDA Riau's technical affairs division head, Lukita Awang Nistyantara, said it was the second time the Flying Squad had lost a young elephant this year. 'In May, a baby elephant named Nela was found dead in the national park area,' said Lukita.
'This should be a valuable lesson for us that the challenges of conservation efforts, including in protecting the lives of elephants in Sumatra, remain very high.' (ebf)