An Elephant dies due to the human-elephant conflict in Balai RajaBy: Syamsidar
Pekanbaru (01/04)-An adult Sumatran elephant finally died in Balai Raja, Mandau Sub district, Bengkalis District, Riau Province on 26 March 2011. Medical treatment given by the Veterinarian from the Natural Resources Agency of Riau (BSKDA Riau) and WWF failed to save the life of the elephant as she was very weak. Her five month-baby was translocated to the Elephant Training Center in Minas after its mom’s death.
These two elephants, both mom and the baby had been reported to have been wandered in the village for two weeks. The community who has very often encountered human-elephant conflict in the area remained aware of the situation while assisting the elephants by providing food and water. On 23 March, the mother elephant collapsed. The villagers found her lying helplessly at the asphalt road for hours while her baby kept staying around her. The villagers tried to help the dying elephant by throwing water to her so that she was not dehydrated. The mother elephant then recovered.
In the folowing day, the condition of the mother elephant got much better. She and her baby could be escorted manually to forested area nearby Chevron complex by WWF and BKSDA team. However she always vomitted the food. Her body sign and symptom indicated that the elephant had consumed something poisoningThe villagers and school children are very much concerned with both elephants. Together they collected donation to buy food for the two elephants. Meanwhile the baby elephant kept staying around its mom and it sometimes nursed from the mom who was still in weak condition. Although the proper medical treatment had been given, the mother elephant still could not be saved.
Condition of Balai Raja Elephant Pouch
Balai Raja is one of nine remaining elephant pouches in Riau with the third biggest elephant population that is about 35 individuals. The elephant homerange within this pouch covers the Balai Raja Wildlife Reserve and the surrounding areas which unfortunately have been divided into several concession holders. The Balai Raja Wildlife Reserve itself was designated as conservation area in 1986 with length of 18,000 ha, however the forested area remains 120 ha only according to landsat image 2007. Settlement, oil palm plantation have fragmented the conservation area. As a result, human-elephant conflict occurs frequently in the area.
The area surrounding the Balai Raja Wildlife Reserve which is known as Libo Forest Block is actually a high conservation value forest as it does not only function as a homerange to elephant but many of the areas there are peat swamp forest of 2 to 4 meter depth. According to the Riau’s 1994 spatial plan, many of the areas are identified as peat protected areas. Forest clearing in this area had started since 2005 as reported by Eyes On the Forest in 2006. The report proved that the two world’s pulp and paper companies and or with their partner under the APRIL and APP groups receive timber from this area. In 2010, both the giant paper groups still do their forest cutting in the area as they still receive the annual cutting permit for 2010.
Human-elephant conflict in the area did not only took elephants for its tolls but also human being. The latest victim happened in 2009 where a man died due to elephant attack in Balai Raja.
Flying Squad Need to be Established
With intensive human-elephant conflict in Balai Raja elephant pouch, the establishment of Flying Squad ( a team for conflict mitigation) in the area is urgently neededto be undertaken. This plan is also in line with the recommendation of Riau’s Elephant Conservation Strategy formulated in September 2010. This team is expected to conduct routine monitoring on elephants signs in the area to take preventive efforts in minimizing the conflict. This initiative ought to be supported by stakeholders and related government.
Restoration over elephant range around the area need to be done and supported by concession holders to provide spaces for the elephant to survive for the long run. The condition of the area which now remains unforested has made the efforts to drive away wild elephants when getting into conflict harder than before. Sometimes the elephants have to cross road which some time causes traffic jam. About 13 accacia concession holders and 11 palm oil plantation holders are recorded to be operated in the Libo Forest Block. The concession holders around the area have to pay their responsibilities by taking part to restore the area that becomes elephant home range. The concession holders must conduct better management practice within their concession as it is high conservation value foret. Otherwise human-elephant conflict will keep rising as well as increasing the number of victims on both side(human or elephants).