Contributing Monkie G Monkie
Published on February 17, 2009
In August, 2008, the government of Indonesia committed to more than doubling the size of Sumatra’s Tesso Nilo National Park, one of the last havens for endangered Sumatran elephants and critically endangered Sumatran tigers.
Tesso Nilo National Park was created in 2004 but only 94,000 acres of forest were included. The government of Indonesia will extend the national park into 213,000 acres by December 2008 and integrate an additional 47,000 acres into the national park management area of 250,000 acres.
Besides being a haven for elephants and tigers, Tesso Nilo, in Riau Province, has the highest lowland forest plant biodiversity known to science, with more than 4,000 plant species recorded so far and many species yet to be discovered. The province is under dramatically increasing threat from the pulp and paper industry, from the clearing of the forest to make room for palm oil plantations, and from illegal settlements.
WWF Activists Spoke Out
In 2006, nearly 38,000 people from around the world signed a WWF petition urging the Indonesian government to end all logging, encroachment, and conversion of elephant forests in Riau and asking the government to expand Tesso Nilo National Park. Later that year, the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and the government of Riau Province publicly committed to expand Tesso Nilo. The government firmed up its commitment in August 2008.
An Elephant Saga
In 2006, the WWF activists also called for the release of a small group of Sumatran elephants that had been captured by local forestry officials after they had damaged crops and homes in Riau Province. In May of that year, eight of the elephants were released into Tesso Nilo National Park, seven weeks after they were found chained to trees without food or water. WWF, which provided daily care and medical treatment for the elephants after their discovery, accompanied the authorities as they released the elephants to ensure that the release was done safely.
At the time, WWF was concerned that Tesso Nilo was not a suitable release site as it was too small to provide habitat for more elephants and that the release of the elephants into the park without an expansion and a plan to stop encroachment would simply shift the human-elephant conflict to other villages near Tesso Nilo.
The Conflict Between Humans and Elephants
Only three weeks before the elephants were found chained, six other elephants had been found dead in an illegal oil palm plantation in Riau, apparently poisoned in retaliation for feeding in the plantation.
These animals were casualties in an escalating conflict between elephants and humans in central Sumatra, the direct result of uncontrolled and often illegal destruction of the elephants’ forest habitat usually for oil palm and pulp.
The loss of elephant habitat has resulted in massive conflicts between humans and elephants who are forced to feed on crops that have replaced their natural foods. This causes huge damage not only to local livelihoods, but also to houses and other property, and it sometimes causes human death. In retaliation, elephants are poisoned, shot, or die when captured by the authorities.
The expansion of Tesso Nilo National Park will go a long way toward alleviating the crisis. Human-elephant conflict can be avoided if elephants are given enough room to live and if these confrontations are dealt with professionally.
Thank you to everyone who took action. With your help, we are making a real difference.
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