The Jakarta Post
Locals have called on authorities to take action to drive away three wild elephants, which came close to residential areas in Bengkalis regency, Riau province and destroyed palm and crop plantations.
The herd of the endangered animal had visited Jl. Rangau, Pematang Pudu subdistrict, Mandau district, in the past two weeks, but it was only in the past week that they began eating the local’s plantations, local Nimrot Sinaga said.
“They also destroyed an 8-hectare 3-year old palm plantation, which belongs to my parents,” he said on Friday.
The elephants usually came at night, he said, adding that he and the other residents tried to drive the elephants away using firecrackers. However, the elephants remained circling the area as other residents also tried to cast them away from the opposite direction.
He predicted that the three elephants are one family as they comprised of two adults and one calf around five years old.
“We expect the Riau Natural Resource Conservation Agency [BKSDA] will soon deploy a tamed elephant to lead the wild elephants away from the plantations and residences,” he said.
(Read also: Elephant population continues to shrink in Aceh)
Tamed elephants are usually used to mitigate conflict between wild elephants and humans.
Nimrot said if authorities did not take swift action, he feared the local people would not be able to contain their anger as their palm plantations were eaten by the elephants. He said the elephants ate the palm shoots, which will kill the trees.
Besides palms, the elephants also ate other crops including sweet potatoes, beans and many other kinds of vegetables.
“If they keep causing restlessness among locals, I fear for their safety. They are protected animals, but their lives could be at risk,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mandau district head Djoko Edy Imhar said he had contacted Riau BKSDA to report the incident.
“BKSDA must lead the wild elephants away from local residences and plantations to prevent any possible conflicts,” he said.
Three reportedly malnourished elephants are moved from Aras Napal in Langkat regency to the Barumun Nagari Wildlife Sanctuary in North Padang Lawas regency, North Sumatra, on Friday.(JP/Apriadi Gunawan)
Agency official R. Hutajulu said his office had assigned a team to monitor the wild elephant’s movements. It was detected that they were around the Jambon public cemetery and the team would try to lead them to Talang Forest at night.
From this monitoring, it was known that the herds’ movements were slow as one of the adult elephants could not walk properly. The elephant’s leg was wounded from a trap, which struck it some time ago. The agency’s team had treated the wound, but he said the healing process might take a while as the wound was on the elephant’s foot.
Hutajulu urged people not to get panicky if the three wild elephants passed their yards while they were herded to the Talang Forest.
“People must remain calm as Riau BKSDA is following their movements. It is better for people to stay at a safe distance so the elephants do not feel threatened and chase people instead,” he said.
The rampant conversion of forests into plantations has increased the rate of human-elephant conflicts in the country. Data from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia in 2015 showed that Indonesia had the highest number of human-elephant conflicts in Asia.