Riau Conservationists Celebrate Elephant Birth

In this handout photo taken on August 8, 2013 and released by World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia on August 22, 2013, female elephant Ria (R) walks next to her newborn in Tesso Nelo National Park, Riau province on the island of Sumatra. (AFP Photo/World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia)

In this handout photo taken on August 8, 2013 and released by World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia on August 22, 2013, female elephant Ria (R) walks next to her newborn in Tesso Nelo National Park, Riau province on the island of Sumatra. (AFP Photo/World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia)

Riau’s Tesso Nilo National Park has welcomed the birth of a female Sumatran elephant by 35-year-old Ria, who is part of the park’s human-elephant conflict mitigation program, making it the team’s fourth birth since forming in 2004.

Erwin Daulay, a mahout (elephant trainer), discovered the calf on Aug. 7, after Ria appeared unusually distant when approached. A smaller elephant soon appeared by her side.

“The birth of a baby elephant from the Flying Squad [human-elephant team] … is not only an Idul Fitri gift for elephant conservation efforts, but is also good news from Tesso Nilo, considering the high death rates of elephants in this forest area in the past two years,” said Kemal Amas, head of the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BBKSDA).

The Flying Squad team was initiated by the World Wide Fund for Nature to redirect wild elephants from plantations or residential areas to their original habitat.

According to WWF Indonesia, 12 Sumatran elephants were killed last year, while three have been poached so far in 2013.

The Tesso Nilo National Park Agency and the Riau BBKSDA are pushing for law enforcement steps in response to the elephant slaughters.

Sunarto, a species expert from WWF Indonesia, said the birth was special because it was near World Elephant Day, on Aug. 12.

WWF Indonesia said that despite intense conflicts and a rapidly decreasing habitat, elephants appear to be strong enough to adapt and reproduce.

“Elephants have a character that is a lot like humans, they do not easily give up in any situation,” Sunarto added.
Ria, a 35-year-old elephant, walks near her newborn calf in Tesso Nilo National Park, Riau, on Thursday. Ria is part of a team that mitigates conflict between humans and elephants. Her baby is the team’s fourth birth since it was founded in 2004. AFP Photo