The Jakarta Post
A soldier was trampled to death by a wild elephant that wandered into Belanti hamlet in Ogan Komering Ilir regency, South Sumatra.
The soldier, identified as First Sgt. Iskandar Zulkarnain, 49, was a member of the Indonesian Military’s (TNI) village supervisory noncommissioned officers (Babinsa) assigned to the hamlet. He died while trying to protect villagers from the elephant.
When Iskandar and some villagers tried to scare the animal back into the forest, the elephant attacked them instead. Iskandar failed to escape from the animal, which trampled him to death. Villagers retrieved his body after finally succeeding in driving off the elephant.
“The incident occurred near the Padang Sugihan wildlife sanctuary,” South Sumatra governor Herman Deru said during a visit to the hamlet on Thursday.
The TNI promoted Iskandar posthumously to chief sergeant. He was buried during a ceremonial military funeral at the Bawah Kabung Public Cemetery in Banyuasin regency on Thursday.
Iskandar had been advising villagers to protect the elephant, which is considered an endangered species, as well as prevent similar human-wildlife conflicts in the future.
The head of the South Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), Geinman Hasibuan, confirmed that the elephant that entered Belanti hamlet was a wild one. He added that the hamlet was within the elephant’s natural habitat and at least 120 elephants regularly roamed the area.
According to the BKSDA, there were at least 37 conflicts between humans and elephants between 2013 and 2019. The number is higher than the conflicts involving other animals, such as tigers (26 cases), sun bears (20) and crocodiles (14).
The Sumatran elephant was declared an endangered species by both the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which called the species “critically endangered” on its red list, and the government, which included the species on the list of a 2018 environment and forestry ministerial regulation on protected flora and fauna.
According to the Indonesia Elephant Conservation Forum, the population of elephants was from 2,800 to 4,800 in 1980. However, it said only 1,720 remained in the wild by 2014.
During a discussion on human-wildlife conflict in Palembang in February, Way Kambas Landscape coordinator Sugiyo said the authorities should implement a participative approach involving villagers for managing conflicts with elephants.
Conflict between humans and elephants has been considered a factor contributing to the decrease of the Sumatran elephant population. “It is a territorial conflict. Their forest area has been reduced significantly because it has been turned into plantations. Poaching, hunting and the wildlife trade had also worsened the conflict,” Sugiyo said. (dpk)