Pekanbaru, Riau. Despite valiant efforts to save it, a Sumatran elephant died in Riau on the weekend, prompting the World Wildlife Fund to call on the government to set up a team to manage human-elephant conflict in the region.
The weak adult female elephant, which was accompanied by two calves, was found on March 21 blocking access to a housing complex in Balai Raja village in Bengkalis district, Riau.
Concerned residents called the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), but the elephant collapsed on Wednesday morning. A BKSDA medical team took blood samples and gave the animal intravenous fluids, but were unable to save it.
Veterinarian Rini Deswita, from the BKSDA, said the elephant was suffering from gastrointestinal problems and was not able to keep any food down.
“It was also severely dehydrated,” Rini said. “We will know the precise cause of death after we perform an autopsy.”
Samsuardi, who works on Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation at WWF Riau, said he suspected the elephant had been poisoned.
His organization on Sunday called on the government to immediately establish a so-called Flying Squad to address human-elephant conflict in Balai Raja.
“Balai Raja contains the largest population of elephants in Riau,” said Syamsidar, a spokesman for WWF Riau, on Sunday. “But because their habitat has been destroyed to make way for residences and plantations, the animals are suffering.”
In 1990, 16,000 hectares of land in Balai Raja was set aside for the Marwa Wildlife Sanctuary. Today, however, only 120 hectares remains, most of which is secondary forest.
Didi, a Balai Raja local, said residents had tried to feed and bathe the female elephant after seeing it mistreated. Some residents had thrown objects at the elephant after it ate their crops, he said.
“Just look at the wounds on the elephant’s ears,” Didi said. “There is a large chance they were caused by people from around here.”