December 9, 2010

Three Endangered Sumatran Elephants Found Dead

Officials said Thursday that three endangered Sumatran elephants have been found dead after their herd rampaged through a village in western Indonesia.

Local conservationists said the elephants may have died after eating poison intended for wild boars as they scavenged for food at village stores.

"Three elephants have been killed. We don't know the cause but we have sent a team to the location to find out," Aceh province conservation agency chief Abubakar Chek Mat said in a statement.

"Conflict between elephants and residents happens often in this location and we're trying to find a solution to drive the elephants back to their habitat."

Bakhtiar, an activist with local environmental group Leuser International Foundation, told AFP that a herd of elephants had sent villagers fleeing.

"For the past week, dozens of Sumatran elephants have gone to the village in east Aceh district and destroyed houses and crops, forcing 50 villagers to seek refuge elsewhere," he said.

"When the people returned home yesterday, they found three elephants dead. They said the elephants might have consumed poison meant for wild boars."

Human-animal conflicts have become a growing problem as people trespass on wildlife habitats in Indonesia, an archipelago with some of the world's largest remaining tropical forests.

Bakhtiar told AFP that his group and the local authorities are planning to bring tame elephants to the area to help chase any straying herd back into the forest.

"These tame elephants have been specially trained to do so. This is a more effective method than the present one used by the residents which is to fire homemade bamboo cannons in the hope that the sounds would scare the elephants away," he added.

According to the environmental group WWF, there are up to 3,350 Sumatran elephants remaining in the wild.


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