Elephant killed by poachers in Indonesia

This article and its accompanying downloadable photo are of a graphic and disturbing nature and are likely to cause distress to some readers.

Police in Aceh are getting closer to prosecuting the individuals believed to be responsible for killing a wild Asian elephant in Aceh Jaya district, northern Sumatra. The elephant was killed and left with its dismembered trunk lying next to its bloody carcass with its tusks cleanly removed; leaving no doubt to conservationists that this was the work of professional poachers.

WARNING: The PDF download this link leads to is of a distressing nature, and is not suitable for sensitive readers. Click here to see the graphic image of poached elephant (opens as PDF). Credit: Toro/FFI

Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI) Conservation Response Units (CRU) provide strong links between in-situ and ex-situ elephant conservation by employing rescued captive elephants and their mahouts to patrol and protect wild elephants and their forest habitat. The programme creates opportunities for local communities to participate and benefit from conservation initiatives, helping to prevent loss of life or livelihood from problems with wild elephants.

No prior reports of human-elephant conflict were received in relation to this recent killing. A site inspection also found no evidence of attempted crop raiding by the elephant. The elephant was killed in a garden by the forest edge where FFI suspects that it been lured to the right position underneath a spear trap that was set off by a trip wire.

A trap set to lure the elephant in, before killing and removing tusks. Photo: Toro/FFI

A trap set to lure the elephant in, before killing and removing tusks. Photo: Toro/ FFI

The killing took place near the Sampoinent CRU in Aceh Jaya district and the police now have compiled sufficient evidence that has been handed over the prosecution office for follow up. The President of Indonesia has even ordered a prosecution and tweeted about this.

After the killing was reported, both tusks were anonymously handed back (95cm x 10kg and 70cm x 7.6kg) to the authorities several weeks later and in the hope that the case would then be dropped. However, the police have remained determined to follow this through, which is significant because, to FFI’s knowledge, no Sumatran elephant poaching incident has ever been prosecuted, making this case the basis for an important precedence.

An FFI community ranger who has been wrongly blamed for reporting this incident to the police is now experiencing problems in his village, which is where the elephant was poached. His cow was stabbed as a warning to him by one vengeful community member, whereas another sent a threatening text message.

It is essential that FFI keeps providing support to the Community Ranger team (which consists of ex-loggers, ex-poachers and ex-combatants), so that it can remain active and on-site to not only ensure the monitoring and rapid response to ongoing human-elephant conflicts in Aceh, but also so there is no a further escalation in tensions with communities. This situation illustrates the challenges that FFI and especially its partners regular face in the field, but also the unwavering commitment in remaining prepared to serve both wildlife and people so that co-existence remains.