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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Baby Elephant Held for Ransom by Desperate Villagers in Sumatra

Little Raja is being held by Sumatran villagers eager to stop deforestation.
Driven by desperation, villagers in Sumatra are holding baby Raja hostage. No one in the village knows how to care for Raja; he is being fed scraps of food but the small elephant is malnourished and his ribs are showing. He is less than one year old.

The villagers are holding him ransom to ask their government to protect them from the fallout of the startling loss of habitat rapid deforestation is creating across Sumatra.

"The status of the Sumatran elephant was changed to “critically endangered” at the end of 2011, meaning they are in imminent danger of extinction. 85% of their habitat is located outside of protected areas and is constantly vulnerable to conversion,” says Leif Cocks, Founder of the International Elephant Project.

Forest conversion (for things like palm oil and paper pulp) results in conflict with humans: stressed and starving herds are fleeing from the chainsaws in search of safety and food, as the elephants walk through farmland they destroy people’s crops and livelihoods.(See ITV news coverage)

The Indonesian Government appears poised to approve a new Spatial Plan for Aceh province that could ultimately mean extinction for the last remaining populations of Sumatran orangutan and Sumatran rhino.

The world renowned Leuser ecosystem is the only remaining forest to contain both of these species along with elephants, tigers, sunbears, gibbons, tapirs and leopards. It symbolises the enormous biodiversity teetering on a knife-edge in Indonesia.

The proposed spatial plan is the first step towards the destruction of over 1.2 million hectares of rainforest on Sumatra island including roads, mines, plantations, logging permits and other extractive activities the Aceh Government has indicated they plan to approve, many clearly contravening National Spatial Planning Law 26/2007 regulation 26/2008 which protects the Leuser Ecosystem.

Australian based conservation organisation, Wildlife Asia, believes that it is imperative that spatial planning be based on sound scientific analysis of land suitability and environmental risks and it is outrageous to consider that such decisions could be driven by foreign companies with considerable financial incentive and complete disregard for the future well- being of local communities and a sustainable economy for Aceh.

The proposed changes to the spatial plan would also approve an extensive new network of roads, resulting in even further forest destruction and encroachment. In an area already prone to natural disasters, this is an incredibly dangerous decision and one that will invariably result in an increased loss of lives and huge economic losses to local communities.

Wildlife Asia spokesperson, Clare Campbell says “Approval of the plan to free up this enormous area of forest for mining, paper and palm oil plantations is an environmental disaster of catastrophic proportions.”

“This area is the last chance for several species already in serious trouble. Conversion of this forest will ultimately result in the death of up to 4,500 Sumatran orangutans, 50 Sumatran rhinos, 200 Sumatran tigers and 500 Sumatran elephants. These numbers represent over 50% of each of these species’ populations, it is absolutely gut-wrenching for conservationists working so hard to boost numbers and save these species from extinction”.

“The area also contains critical carbon sinks and forests that are essential for food security, regulating water flow and mitigating climate change. This will be devastating for the future of communities living in these areas as well as the broader region”.

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The International Elephant Project (IEP) launched in 2013 by The Orangutan Project (TOP) Founder Leif Cocks, and Project Leader Alex Mobrucker. The project is calling on help from the Australian public to save these critically endangered elephants by adopting one.

The Asian elephant is found in 13 countries on both the Asian mainland and a number of surrounding islands, and there are four sub-species of elephant, two of which are found in Indonesia. Alarming figures suggest that there are now only 1,180-1,557 wild elephants left in Sumatra. One of the main reasons is habitat loss, caused by Indonesian forests being destroyed for palm oil plantations. Similar to the situation facing the orangutans, elephants are also losing their homes at an unprecedented and unsustainable rate, putting their lives in great danger. Members of the public can help make a difference to the lives of these Critically Endangered elephants by adopting one today from just $65 a year.

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