Friday, July 06, 2018

Poachers blamed in second Sumatran elephant death this year

AUTHORITIES in Indonesia have blamed poachers for the death of an elephant found with one of its tusks hacked off, in one of the world’s most biodiverse and threatened habitats.

The 27-year-old male Sumatran elephant, named Bunta, had since 2016 been regularly trained and employed by forest rangers in Aceh province as part of a unit to ward off wild elephants encroaching on farms and villages.

His body was found June 9 by forest rangers inside the Leuser Ecosystem, one of Indonesia’s last large tracts of intact rainforest, which is home to four of the most iconic and critically endangered species on Earth: the Sumatran elephant, tiger, rhino and orangutan.

Citing damage to the elephant’s digestive tract, and traces from fruit found near the carcass, officials from the Aceh conservation agency, or BKSDA, say it was likely that Bunta was poisoned — a common tactic used by poachers and farmers in the region.

“After the elephant died, one of its tusks was taken by slicing open its cheek,” Wahyu Kuncoro, of the East Aceh district police, told reporters a day after the body was found.

Sapto Aji Prabowo, the head of the Aceh BKSDA, lamented the elephant’s death and called on law enforcement to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“There’s a human who heartlessly killed this tame animal, this can’t be accepted by reason,” he said.

“We are absolutely at a loss at the passing of this male elephant,” he added. “Bunta was one of the elephants that we really relied on [for forest patrols].”

Under Indonesian conservation law, the killing, trading or distribution of protected species and their parts can incur jail sentences of up to five years and fines of up to 100 million rupiah ($7,160). But law enforcement on wildlife killings remains weak, with offenders rarely prosecuted. On the few occasions that cases make their way to court, the perpetrators typically receive token sentences or fines far below the maximum.

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