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Jakarta Post

Flying Squad elephant dies mysteriously

Rizal Harahap
Pekanbaru   ●   Wed, November 25, 2015

The Flying Squad domesticated elephant team has again lost one of its youngest pachyderm members: 2-year-old Tino was found dead on Friday in Tesso Nilo National Park (TNTN), in Pelalawan regency Riau.

The carcass of the elephant, which was managed by the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) working together with the WWF-Indonesia'€™s Riau program and the TNTN, was initially found by her mahout Erwin Daulay not far from her mother, Ria, on Friday.

'€œErwin discovered Tino'€™s corpse around 10 meters from her mother, who was tethered and standing up. The mother kept looking at her calf'€™s body,'€ said WWF-Indonesia spokesperson Samsidar on Tuesday.

She denied her office had intentionally postponed publicizing the incident for four days in order to not expose the incident.

'€œActually, we intended to publicize it on Sunday, but we had to wait for approval from the TNTN Center head, as it was within their authority. They argued it should initially be reported to the Forestry and Environment Ministry, but the incident took place on the weekend, so it could only be reported on Monday,'€ said Samsidar.

Tino, born on Aug. 7, 2013, was the fourth calf born to a member of the Flying Squad. Mahouts at the WWF-Indonesia'€™s Riau program in Lubuk Kembang Bunga village, Pelalawan regency, Riau, named the calf Tino, which was taken from the local dialect: betino meaning a female who behaves calmly.

The finding was reported to the BKSDA Riau, TNTN Center and the Pelalawan Husbandry Office. The husbandry office'€™s veterinarian, Muchlisin, immediately went to the scene and led a necropsy on Tino'€™s carcass.

Some internal organs of the elephant have been sent to the lab at the Veterinary Center in Bukit Tinggi, West Sumatra, to confirm of the cause of death. '€œUsually, results would only be issued in two weeks,'€ said Muchlisin.

He claimed he had not found signs of violence or physical damage on the elephant. '€œBut the rashes on and bloating of Tino'€™s intestines are believed to have been caused by a gas build-up, which might have been caused by consuming too much young grass,'€ said Muchlisin.

Meanwhile, TNTN Center head Tandya Tjahjana said he had deployed investigators to probe the case. '€œThey have scoured the incident scene to look for whatever could have endangered the elephant, but they did not find any suspicious signs,'€ said Tandya.

BKSDA Riau technical affairs head Lukita Awang Nistyantara said Tino was the second elephant to die this year. '€œIn May, an elephant calf named Nela was also found dead inside the TNTN area,'€ said Lukita.

'€œThe incident serves as a valuable lesson for us. Conservation efforts and maintaining the survival of elephants in Sumatra remains a very daunting task,'€ he added.

Separately, WWF-Indonesia Central Sumatra program manager Wishnu Sukmantoro said the drought that swept across Riau over the past three months had made serious impacts on elephant habitat in the TNTN, especially as several parts of the conservation area had also been razed by fire.