New MoU in Place

To support our elephant conservation efforts head to the official Berdiri website http://www.berdiri.org

This month is a landmark for us here at Berdiri. We have signed a new 3 year MoU with the local conservation agency (BKSDA) here in Bengkulu to continue on the much needed conservation efforts for the critically endangered Sumatran elephants. The next three years will entail a few projects. First and our focus for now is to implement an electric fence for the camp elephants of PLG Seblat so they can be chain free, free to roam and socialize and to encourage the opportunity to breed.

This is the beginning of a long term plan and there will be many small, medium and large projects to aid in the conservation of the critically endangered elephants here is Sumatra.

A big thank you to those that have stuck by awaiting to make this happen. Especially the amazing conservation team of Tulsa Zoo.

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EoS Book Excerpt (Elephants of Sumatra) – The Projects

Below is a sample extract from the up coming Elephants of Sumatra – The Final Stand documentary photography book being published in support of the critically endangered sumatran elephants and the various projects we have, projects we support directly in the field or indirectly by other means. The final product will be a 100 page photography documentary book created by Berdiri Founder Bruce Levick based on the back of 3 years in the field documenting  the dire situation being faced by the last remaining ELEPHANTS OF SUMATRA. The extract below is from a chapter named “The Projects”, which documents the work being carried out by various NGO’s to help conserve this amazing species. The book will be available for pre-order soon.

“Sumatra may be only one island of many thousands within the archipelago of Indonesia but the diversity of the wildlife within is second to none. With many unique species fighting for small pockets of remaining habitat on the island of Sumatra with most of these species listed as endangered or critically endangered, the elephants of Sumatra being one of those listed as critically endangered with an estimated figure of 1000-1500 left in the wild.
The main threats to the Elephants of Sumatra is habitat destruction and poaching for the ivory trade. For the most part it is the habitat destruction that is causing so many problems for the remainder of the species. As the habitat reduces the elephants are constantly on the move looking for new areas that are suitable for their herd and this causes the elephants to enter into nearby villages causing issues for the local farmers and community that come into conflict with the elephants. Thus usually ending in capture or death for the elephants. A lot of cases see elephant herds poisoned as they enter into oil palm crops where farmers have left out fruit laced with poison…” 

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Elephant Response Unit – Way Kambas

Last week we took a field trip to the Way Kambas National Park in South Sumatra to present some new technologies to the current existing Elephant Response Units working around the borders of the Way Kambas National Park. The ERU (Elephant Response Units) work the borders of the National Park to mitigate HEC (Human Elephant Conflict) and also patrol for illegal activity.


Presenting and testing the drone in the Way Kambas National Park.


Presenting and testing the drone in the Way Kambas National Park.


photo of the southern camp of Way Kambas taken during our drone tests

We have presented an opportunity for the ERU teams to utilise drone technology along with infrared cameras to help search the surrounding areas for potential wild herds on the move towards neighbouring villages to better prevent future HEC.


The elephant patrols in action


The elephant patrols in action

The proposal for the use of drone technology can also be used to assist in the search for potential illegal activity within the national park such as poachers and illegal loggers.

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Bath time before patrol

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Morning bath time before heading out for patrol

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Cooking up supplements for the patrol elephants

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Preparing the supplements for the patrol elephants


Drone view of the ERU team camp


Drone demonstration for the ERU team

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The Plastic Revolution

The Revolution

Single Use Plastics

Single Use Plastics

200 years ago was around the time of the industrial revolution. It changed the world and has shaped what we know as life today. We are now in the midst of a new revolution that will once again shape the world in the centuries to come,  the plastic revolution. The manufacturing of plastics has worked it’s way into literally every product we use today and as you are about to find out has some serious side effects to not only the way we live, but also the effect on the environment and wildlife around us. It’s not pretty and getting uglier by the day. Unfortunately for many reasons many of us are oblivious to the issues surrounding these plastics. Especially the single use plastics. Here in this post I want to use one piece of plastic that is widely consumed in Indonesia to highlight the issue and clarify the effects it is having on the world around us. It’s the plastic cup of water. I imagine it is used in many poor Asian countries or countries classified as 3rd world countries that are yet to provide clean drinking water to the majority of the population.

Of course there are many many items on a daily basis that are used one time and discarded. For countries like Indonesia with a population of more than 240 million it becomes a real problem. Not just for the people but also for the environment and the wildlife that inhabit the world around us. The problem is there is no system to take care of this large volume of rubbish that is consumed daily. Secondly there is no education. If people were more aware or understanding of the issues of discarding the likes of plastic rubbish they might take more care or responsibility for their actions.

A gallery of the rubbish washed up on Bengkulu Long Beach and flooding in Jakarta due to blocked drains

The Plastic Cup

The population of Indonesia is more than 240 million people. It is safe to say that millions of these cups are consumed in Indonesia each week, possibly even each DAY due to the fact that there is no safe drinkable water around a lot of Indonesia.

plastic on the beach in bengkulu

Plastic on the beach in bengkulu

Let’s do some conservative math. If only 10 percent of the population drink one of these cups every day, that would make approximately 24 million cups consumed every day. With no real system or place for this trash, most people either burn their trash on the side of the street or just toss it on the ground without any thought of the consequences. We can’t blame the majority of the people as they have no idea of the consequences and are brought up to think that tossing their rubbish on ground is simply the norm and is ok. Of course it’s not as I hope to illustrate below.

A short walk along the beach on the west coast of Sumatra reveals plenty of plastic cups washing up on the shore.

A short walk along the beach on the west coast of Sumatra reveals plenty of plastic cups washing up on the shore.

So let us estimate that 50 percent of the 24 million burn their plastic cup in their daily rubbish pile. Then we have 12 million people who toss the cup in the street or generally on the ground. Out of those 12 million cups that end up on the ground some will end up in make shift drains, either blocking the drains causing flooding in the rainy season or make their way eventually to the ocean through this drainage system. So let us estimate a conservative ONE PERCENT of that 12 million successfully enters the drainage system to one day end up in the ocean when the rainy season comes. That is a conservative 120,000 plastic cups per day eligible to enter the ocean, and it’s safe to say from what I have witnessed that there are plenty getting into the ocean and remember its just one piece of plastic trash out of the many 1000’s of types consumed every day. If you think about it over a period of 1 year approximately 44 million plastic cups could potentially enter the ocean every year. It’s a scary thought and even scarier realization when you witness the beaches of Indonesia first hand. Remember also this is just Indonesia. Many other Asian counties experience the same issues.

Berdiri Event: Clean up Long Beach Bengkulu

Check out the event that was held recently to start the process of cleaning up the Long Beach in Bengkulu. It’s a combination of actually cleaning the beach and helping to raise awareness of the locals and to be more responsible with their trash.

Cleaning up Bengkulu Long Beach

Cleaning up Bengkulu Long Beach

Jakarta Flooding

It doesn’t take much to flood the streets of Jakarta due to the tonnes of rubbish left on the streets clogging the drainage systems.

The Rubbish

As you can see in this photo when it floods the rubbish has no where to go and is blocking any kind of drainage.

The Effect

Plastic inherently doesn’t break down naturally but photodegrades over a period of time. Sometimes one year and extending out to many years. As the plastic photodegrades the particles become smaller but remain polymer and plastic. They soon become small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms, thus entering the food chain. Not only does this happen but there are also chemicals that are leached into the ocean as the plastics photodegrade. Plastic rubbish is also spotted by sea birds that mistake the plastic for food that they provide their young, leading to a slow painful death to birds in the effected areas of our major oceans as you can see in the documentary preview Midway.

Read About: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch


1. There is obviously a mammoth effort needed to clean up what is already a mess in the 5 gyres in our oceans. One great solution has been put forward by  a 19 year old Boyan Slat. This idea of skimming across the top of the ocean is simple and effective. But we must be aware that this is only half the solution. We need to stop the process of this rubbish entering into our oceans and a big effort is needed from governments of all countries as the earths population grows and grows so does the piles of rubbish entering the oceans.

2 No more single use plastics. This is one of the biggest contributors to the problem. To distribute drinkable water we need to substitute single use plastics such as the small plastic cup for refillable and reusable containers. It’s a bit of a process but really needs to happen and happen fast.

3. Implement and teach nations about recycling. Recycling is simply non existent in comparison to other 1st world countries and this needs to be implemented along with education to teach people how and why we should recycle.

4. Encourage governments to provide systems. Not just recycling but implement better systems to effectively dispense of the many millions of tonnes of trash to prevent it from entering into our oceans.

Do you have any thoughts or feedback on this information. Any solutions that you might want to add to this? Please leave your valued comments below.


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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Did you know the largest landfill in the world is not on the land but in the Pacific Ocean? This garbage dump is a collection of marine debris that ends up in oceans, seas, and other large bodies of water.

Any kind of trash like plastic bottles, wastes from ships, dumping of toxic industrial waste, medical wastes, etc get in to ocean is called marine debris. Marine debris has become a big pollution problem which is affecting all of the world’s oceans and existing sea life. This trash or debris is causing injuries and deaths of numerous marine animals and birds. They get harmed either by entangling in it or by eating it.

This debris is estimated to weigh about 3 million tons and to cover an area twice the size of Texas (Greenpeace). This Pacific Garbage dump is not visible to satellites as it is in the form of marine soup whose main ingredient is floating plastic debris. This area is in the middle of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

An ocean gyre is a series of currents that move in a circular pattern

An ocean gyre is a series of currents that move in a circular pattern. These currents are formed by the Earth’s wind patterns and the forces created by the rotation of the planet. This circular pattern of the gyre draws in debris and the centre of gyre is calm and stable, so the garbage is trapped here. The water circulates clockwise in a slow spiral in this area and the winds are light. The currents force any floating material into the low energy central area of the gyre and prevent other materials from escaping. Therefore this area is filled with trash and is considered as the largest landfill in the world.

In fact the gyre has actually formed two large masses of ever-accumulating trash, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches…collectively known as Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Eastern Garbage Patch floats between Hawaii and California and the Western Garbage Patch forms east of Japan and west of Hawaii. Both the patches are massive and collect trash from all over the world. These patches are linked by a thin 6,000-mile long current known as Subtropical Convergence Zone. Research flights showed the accumulation of the trash in this Convergence Zone as well.

This Pacific Garbage dump is also known as Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Pacific Trash Vortex. This patch was discovered in 1997 by Californian sailor, surfer and volunteer environmentalist named Charles Moore. He was sailing from Hawaii to California after competing in a yachting race. Moore and his crew saw infinite pieces of plastic surrounding his ship while crossing the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

Why this Great Pacific Garbage Patch is considered a big environmental disaster?

The majority of marine debris is plastic and is causing major problems for marine animals and birds. Numerous marine animals and sea birds become entangled in marine debris or ingest it, which can cause them serious harm and often results in their death. Plastics constitute about 90 percent of all trash floating in the world’s oceans (LA Times). This plastic garbage is increasing at very alarming rate, Great Pacific Garbage Patch has increased 100-fold since the 1970s. (The Telegraph)

The main problem with plastic is its resistance to degrade or in other words plastics do not bio-degrade. These materials persist in the environment as they are not degraded by any natural process. Plastics don’t bio-degrade, but they photo-degrade. Photo-degradation is a process in which plastics in the ocean are weathered into progressively smaller pieces by the action of sunlight. These tiny pieces have been found suspended in seawater and on the seabed in sediments. These small bits of plastic produced by photo-degradation are called nurdles. These nurdles act like sponges as they have the dangerous property of soaking up toxic chemicals. These toxins are concentrated in the nurdles and can be very harmful to marine life in the gyre.

Fortunately, this environmental concern has started getting attention now. Many people and organization are trying to help this urgent cause by getting people and Government’s attention to protect the oceans.

Another name which has helped highlighting this issue is Chris Jordan. His beautiful yet disturbing pictures have done a tremendous job to draw attention to the plight of the marine animals. Through his photographs you can feel the pain of innocent birds, who are crying for help as the plastic is quickly and painfully killing them, their environment and their overall way of life. To feel the real situation watch the trailer for Midway Film here. It is a trailer of the documentary that shows the effects of plastics on the lives of birds at Midway Island in the North Pacific Ocean, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent. The nesting babies are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who consider the trash for food.

Gyre / Chris Jordan

On the midway island, out of 500,000 albatross chicks are born there each year, about 200,000 die, generally from dehydration or starvation. Research showed that chicks that died from those causes had twice as much plastic in their stomachs as those that died for other reasons. (LA Times)


However Albatross are not the only victims, it is estimated that about 1 million seabirds choke or get tangled in plastic nets or other debris every year. Not only that about 100,000 seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins, other marine mammals and sea turtles suffer the same fate. (Greenpeace)


Marine debris will also disturb the food webs in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. As nurdles and other trash collected on the surface of the ocean will block sunlight from reaching plankton and algae below. Plankton and algae produce their own nutrients from oxygen, carbon, and sunlight. If these are threatened, all the fish, turtles or other marine animals that feed on algae and plankton will have less food and they may die and predator species such as tuna, sharks, and whales will get less food and this way the whole food web will be affected.

Stop the Great Pacific Garbage Patch from growing: We made this mess, we need to clean it up, but the tragedy is…Great Pacific Garbage Patch is so far from any country’s coastline and no Government is taking the responsibility or providing any funds to clean it up. For cleaning up the gyres, only non-governmental organizations such as 5 Gyres and Algalita Marine Research Institute with their founder Captain Charles Moore have studied micro-plastic pollution and its effect on marine ecosystems.

Cleaning up this marine debris is not possible as removing the trash that’s already there could harm some marine ecosystems. Trash retrieval from the gyres poses problems because of the huge size of ocean, distinct nature of accumulations and the fact that most of this plastic is in tiny pieces and it’s everywhere. There is hope in one particular project though called “The Ocean Cleanup” a crowd funding project stated by Boyan Slat. A cleanup solution combined with prevention and raising the public awareness of the problem. Present condition requires the urgent adoption of more responsible waste strategies, at local, national and international levels, with the goal to prevent the production of waste at source. There is no single solution to the plastic waste problem but 5 Gyres has a challenge for you to help solve the problem.

Lets pledge together to ‘stand up’ for this cause by redesigning our relationship with plastic.

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God’s Own Country – the Serengeti


Perhaps no other place is more globally recognized as a symbol of the African continent’s true natural beauty than the Serengeti, Tanzania’s oldest national reserve. Regardless of the countless documentaries one may have seen showcasing a million wildebeest making their way across the vast Serengeti savanna on their annual pilgrimage, the spectacle never ceases to amaze. We watch mesmerized the struggle these wild animals go through with death and life going hand in hand as thousands of calves are born daily while many of the animals fall prey to the hunting lion prides reminding us of the all important rule of life – survival of the fittest!

Serengeti means an ‘extended place’

Located in the north of Tanzania, the Serengeti National Park extends into neighboring Kenya where it is referred to as the Masai Mara. Incidentally, the term Serengeti means an ‘extended place’ in the Masai language.  The park which is 14,763 sq km (5,700 sq miles) in size, is home to animals like rhinoceros, giraffes, zebras, gazelles, buffalos, elephants, gazelles, hyena; smaller animals like the gaudy agama lizards, rock hyraxes  dung beetles, and more than 500 species of birds including the ostrich and black eagle. In summers the sun-burnt savannah plains grant a golden hue to the grasslands for as far as the eye can see and in the rainy season (March- May) life springs eternal with endless expanses of grass, thick bushes and wildflowers.

Ironically, it was deemed suitable to be classified as a National Park in 194O because the land was found to be unproductive for European miners and farmers; although the reservation of the land was met with violent protests by the Masai people who felt that their interests had been disregarded to protect the animals and flora and fauna. In 1959 ‘Serengeti Shall Not Die’ a wildlife film by German conservationist Professor Bernhard Grzimek and his son Michael on the migrating herds (which also won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature) brought to the fore the epic beauty of the land and the need to conserve it.


Effects of illegal hunting. A wire snare around the neck of an elephant. Photo: B KatlenBorn; Source: Review Article ‘Serengeti Shall not Die’ by Jafari R. Kideghesho (2010)

 Facing Clear & Present Danger

Tanzania has among the highest percentage (if not the highest) of protected land compared to other countries, with 38% of its territory having been earmarked for conservation since independence in 1961.  Undoubtedly a lot has changed since then.  Growing population in areas surrounding the Serengeti National Park (population of Tanzania is expected to exceed 51 million by 2016 compared to 10 million at the time of independence), rising poverty and failure to adequately address concerns of the local population has led to illegal hunting and destruction of surrounding wildlife habitat putting immense pressure on the  Serengeti ecological system. It is estimated that 40000 animals a year are killed by people living around the Serengeti. Growth of eco-tourism has resulted in construction of hotels, which poses problems of its own. While the human-wildlife conflict is a known problem facing reserves all over the world, the Serengeti is facing graver danger in the form of proposed large scale development projects that will literally cut right through the heart of it!


Lions at Serengeti National Park (credit: Lincoln Park Zoo)

One such project that has been slammed by conservation organizations is a proposed 53-kilometre long commercial highway that will pass through the northern section of the Serengeti National Park, which if constructed will cross paths with the annual migration of the wildebeests. The Chinese government has expressed interest in supporting the Tanzanian government in this project. A visit by China’s new premier Xi Jinping to Tanzania in March earlier this year foretells ominous times ahead for the Serengeti. An impact study by Tanzanian government estimated there will be 800 vehicles a day by the year 2015, and 3,000 vehicles a day by 2035 passing through the National Park if the highway were to be constructed. This would spell disastrous consequences for the Serengeti habitat. Besides hindering the great migration, it will increase human access to hitherto restricted areas and lead to higher poaching, hunting, accidental killing of migratory animals and higher demand for resources such as fuel wood, bush meat and land. Also equally worrying is a proposal by the Tanzanian Government to build a $350 million airport adjacent to the Serengeti.

Call of the Wild – Efforts to Save the Serengeti

A 2010 paper written by Jafari R. Kideghesho (Tropicalconservationscience.org) offers valuable insight into efforts that must be made to save the Serengeti. These include ensuring active participation of local communities in natural resources management, taking efforts towards inducing positive attitudes towards wildlife conservation, finding production methods that are less damaging to the environment of the Serengeti and taking steps to check population growth in the surrounding areas.

The Lincoln Zoo Park is involved in initiatives to safeguard the health of not only the animals of the Serengeti but also its people. Its Serengeti Vaccination Campaign has inoculated more than a million dogs to prevent the spread of rabies amongst the people. Serengeti Wildlife Surveillance involves monitoring of the health of the predators of the Serengeti by collecting blood samples and keeping a check on the spread of diseases such as rabies and distemper among the animals.

Serengeti Watch’ has emerged as a significant global initiative to save the Serengeti from the construction of the commercial highway.  Formed under the auspices of the Earth Island Institute  (a highly recognized non-profit organization which for the last three decades has sought to work towards finding a solution to some of the world’s most pressing environmental and social issues) Serengeti Watch has been instrumental in raising global awareness on the issue as well as in putting mounting pressure on the Tanzanian government to shelf its plans. Besides regular updates on their website and Facebook fan page which has more than 50000 followers, it is helping raise funds to fight the legal case filed by the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), a Kenya nonprofit organization, before the East African Court of Justice against the Tanzanian government’s decision to construct the highway.


This is a picture of Hanna who wanted to contribute to saving the Serengeti by donating all the money in her piggybank. Unwittingly, she has become the symbol of a campaign to raise money for the Serengeti Watch cause.

National parks of Tanzania are global natural heritages that need to be preserved at all costs. Over the last few decades there have been constant efforts by the international scientific community, conservationists, governments and media to bring focus on the eminent dangers of modern civilization to the wildlife of Serengeti and indeed the indigenous Masai people. The Serengeti is even recognized as a U.N World Heritage Site.  The outcome of the ANAW case and our ability or inability to save this remarkable setting will have an important bearing on the future of natural reserves elsewhere and perhaps the world as we know it. However, with the Tanzanian government showing no signs of abandoning its ambitious infrastructural projects and its refusal to sign the Trans-Boundary Ecosystem Bill, the question yet again presents itself – will the Serengeti survive?


You can help the Serengeti have a fighting chance by supporting the legal battle being waged against the Tanzanian Government. To know more visit Serengeti Watch

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Critically Endangered Sumatran Elephants


It is indeed an indictment of us and our humanity when the number of animals featuring on the endangered list mounts faster than mercury on a hot summer afternoon. By 2030 we will be an elite race making preparations that will allow us to conquer neighboring planets and stars! The scenario at home however will remain bleak if we do not let go of avarice. We were handed this planet to share with our animal friends and we have emerged as selfish trespassers. The concept of tolerance that the world governments have enshrined somehow seems circumscribed by the definition of human. The fact that after the Sumatran tiger in 2008, it is now the turn of the Sumatran elephant to be labeled “critically endangered” bears testament to the inadequacy of our endeavors and our gross selfishness!


The Elephas maximus sumatranus or the Sumatran elephant is a majestic creature. It can stand up to 9 feet tall at the shoulders and inhabits the broadleaf moist tropical forests of Sumatra. And it is an important part of the equation that keeps the forest environment healthy and thriving. The Sumatran elephant consumes copious amounts of vegetation in a day and it deposits a variety of seeds wherever it goes thus playing gardener to god’s forests. It has been seen through empirical data that the presence of an elephant community in the vicinity ensures the welfare of the other animals and in this case each of these animals shares space with the Sumatran elephant on the endangered list.

But all this cannot begin to make us comprehend the dire straits this beautiful creature is in. For that we need to understand its temperament. Elephants are social creatures. They have a high degree of intelligence and a good memory. They are also very affectionate and frequently the young ones are seen frolicking with each other or trotting obediently behind their mothers holding on to their tails for support and guidance. Very much like a human mother, a female elephant can lay down her life for the safety of her offspring. This unfortunately is a common occurrence. The illegal animals trade is a vicious and close knit business and these baby elephants fetch a handsome price for some high roller to have the distinction of showcasing an endangered Sumatran Elephant in his private zoo. Close on the heels of this dilemma comes poaching. Despite stringent security measures which the Sumatran Government tries to implement, poaching is an ever present danger. Though the Sumatran elephant has smaller tusks than its African counterparts, the prohibitive cost of ivory makes them lucrative to the poachers who wish to make a double killing with a prize baby elephant and the tusks of a bull. In one cruel perfectly plotted move, a herd is left bereft of babies and males. This not only affects the present population but future chances of recovery are hampered by the missing males. To mate naturally both the sexes are needed. Conservationists can envision another “Matschie’s tree-kangaroo” stunt wherein this rare species has been bred in captivity since the 1070s because of lack of conducive and livable habitat in the wild. Even this possible scheme has a hitch-Elephants don’t breed well in captivity. They are choosy about who they mate with and their gestation period is very long, between 18 to 22 months. Furthermore there is only one calf per pregnancy. These obstacles spell it very clearly: “Saving the Sumatran elephant in the wild is the only feasible way of ensuring it doesn’t become extinct!”


And that brings us to the next demon- Urbanization. Poaching is detrimental to the growth of the Sumatran elephant population but in this case it is not the biggest evil. Human greed trumps it. Since the natural habitat of these elephants can play such a crucial role in its survival, there should be every effort possible to conserve it. Sumatra has experienced an epic almost exponential increase in the rate of deforestation over the last few decades. Almost two-thirds of the available natural lowland which is the preferred habitat of the Sumatran elephant has been razed to accommodate growing human needs of space or timber. These gentle giants who live in matriarchal herds have lost 70% of their population in one generation!! The wild population has fallen to a scant 2800.Further exacerbating their misery is the tyranny of the Palm oil plantations. Because of the high demand of grade quality palm oil, more than 75% of the elephant’s habitat has disappeared in the Riau province alone. These plantations leave land acarpous and inhospitable for elephant herds!

The remaining pachyderms have an uphill battle facing them. Because of human-elephant conflict accidental deaths contribute to the declining population. When elephants come in close contact with humans, material destruction is inevitable. This is part of the way elephants function, trampling large areas to get to what they want. It is programmed in them genetically and humans in their ignorance or because of the survival instinct view them as threats. The Sumatran elephant plagued by the destruction of its habitat and hunger rushes to human colonies where it is stoned or shot. For doing what any living being will do when pushed to the absolute limit! Sometimes while crossing the railway tracks which are unfamiliar objects crisscrossing their lands, they are involved in accidents that leave them dead or mutilated. Many foreign factors oppressing them and the stress of trying to survive have somehow degraded the fertility of the Sumatran elephants. The Lampung province had only two biologically viable herds as of 2002. And this might be a death knell for the dreams of a recovery in the wild.

It is a very precarious situation, to say the least. We need to act fast and extend a helping hand if our children are to see the beauty and wonder of the Sumatran elephants. The critically endangered status is just one below the “Extinct in the wild” in the structure of threat assessment that the IUCN Red List uses to categorize fauna. In 2011, the Sumatran elephant joined the list. The only silver lining is the fact that the inclusion is relatively recent and in view of the long life span of elephants, it is possible that the efforts of many dedicated groups have already started making a difference which will become notable in the coming years. The biggest push has been provided by the WWF. It has seriously called for the oblivious Indonesian government to designate large patches of land for the explicit purpose of the protected existence of Sumatran elephants. And if the push is significant, the government will buckle.

The Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (Vesswic) is a registered non-profit organization founded in 2003 by a group of Sumatran veterinarians who are trying to implement cost effective betterment solutions in Sumatra for the elephants. This program in turn is whole heartedly supported by Asian Elephant Support. The IEF (International Elephant Foundation) though not Sumatran has funded and organized a number of trips to the Sumatran Elephant Conservation Centers (ECC) to deliver medical supplies and provide training to the staff so that lack of funding and know how don’t result in further losses of elephant life. The Frankfurt Zoological Society has also opened up a number of Elephant Conflict Mitigation Units (ECMUs) which work to help elephants and humans co-exist in harmony. If this is achieved, it will be like treating the root cause instead of symptoms and can usher in a golden era of human-animal habitation. Science which can be seen as a culprit in this fiasco is also willing to make amends. The Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia have agreed to collaborate on molecular genetics-based research projects which can reveal useful data pertaining to distribution and demographics of the Sumatran elephant aiding conservation attempts. All in all awareness has spread at an unprecedented rate. With the omnipresent internet proclaiming the message of conservation and its need, more and more people are expected to pitch in and support the cause of the Sumatran elephants.



“Elephants love reunions. They recognize one another after years and years of separation and greet each other with wild, boisterous joy. There’s bellowing and trumpeting, ear flapping and rubbing. Trunks entwine.”
― Jennifer Richard Jacobson, Small as an Elephant

All elephants have remarkable human qualities as the quote says. They are scared and lonely, in need of some humanity. We profess to possess the most of it. Hence if we can help the Sumatran elephants battle it out, it will be a victory for everything that is divine in us. These marvelous creatures deserve better than just a line in a history book. They deserve to tread the paths we do and welcome the future with us!

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