Endangered Sumatran elephant found shot dead, tusks missing

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia – Yet another critically-endangered Sumatran elephant has been found dead in Indonesia, shot dead with its tusks removed and its head badly mutilated.

Despite efforts to protect them, reports of the rare elephants – only about 2,400 and 2,800 are estimated to be remaining – being killed by poachers or villagers threatened by the animals are common.

Genman Suhefti Hasibuan, the head of Aceh's Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA), said the male elephant, aged around 20, was found on Monday, April 15, in a forest area.

"Its tusks were gone, which means we suspect it was killed by poachers," he said, adding that its head was mutilated and bore gunshot wounds. An autopsy indicated the elephant died a month ago.

"The elephant didn't die immediately from the gunshot. It managed to run for around 100 meters before falling," Hasibuan said.

He said the killing was evidence that the animals were still being hunted for their ivory tusks in the area, adding that police and authorities had launched an investigation.

Ivory is in demand as it fetches high prices in some Asian countries where it is used in traditional medicines.

Increasing trend?

According to WWF Indonesia, the number of Sumatran elephants killed by ivory-seeking poaching have increased sharply in recent years.

In the last 3 years, the environmental group said at least 100 elephants have been killed in Aceh for their prized tusks.

But Hasibuan denied this. "Where did they get that data? It's not that much," he told Rappler.  

BSKDA recorded 11 elephant deaths in Aceh in 2014, with some of them caused by conflicts with locals who live near the forests, who regard the beasts as pests that destroy their plantations. (READ: 2 rare Sumatran elephants found dead in Aceh)

So far for the year, this is the first known case of elephant killing in Aceh.  

Animals and humans have increasingly been coming into conflict across the sprawling Indonesian archipelago, as palm oil plantations expand and destroy many rare species' natural habitats.

In the last 6 months alone, officials said such conflicts claimed the lives of 4 people in Aceh.

Conservation officials have resorted to installing GPS tracking units in some elephants to monitor their movements and prevent more deadly cases of human-animal conflicts.  – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com