Indonesian baby elephant dies after losing half of its trunk


BANDA ACEH – A baby elephant on the Indonesian island of Sumatra died Tuesday after losing half of its trunk in a trap set by poachers preying on the endangered species, officials said despite efforts deployed to amputate him and treat his injuries.

“We have done our best, but there is nothing either,” said Agus Arianto, head of the Aceh province conservation agency. “His trunk was starting to rot and didn’t work anymore.”

The 1-year-old female was among the last of the island’s 700 wild Sumatran elephants. She was found very weak with a snare still embedded in her almost severed trunk on Sunday in Alue Meuraksa, a woodland village in Aceh Jaya district, conservation officials said.

Arianto told reporters that an autopsy was being carried out by a team of vets to determine the causes of the baby elephant’s death.

He said wildlife officials had to amputate half of the trunk on Monday during a life-and-death operation at an elephant training center near Banda Aceh, the provincial capital.

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“Her death was shocking (…) because she looked fine after being amputated and moving actively,” said Rika Marwati, veterinarian at the center. “She suddenly fell ill from stress and an infection on Monday evening and in the morning she was pronounced dead.”

Environmentalists say the coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in poaching in Sumatra as villagers turn to hunting for economic reasons.

The number of Sumatran elephants that have died from trapping and poisoning has reached 25 over the past nine years in East Aceh district alone, Arianto said.

In July, an elephant was found without its head in a palm grove in eastern Aceh. Police arrested a suspected poacher and four people accused of purchasing ivory from the dead animal.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, has elevated the status of the Sumatran elephant from Endangered to Critically Endangered in its 2012 Red List, mainly due to a significant drop in population, as indicated by the loss of over 69% of its potential habitat over the past 25 years – the equivalent of one generation.

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Data from the Indonesian Ministry of Forests and Environment showed that the Sumatran elephant population fell from 1,300 in 2014 to 693, down nearly 50% in the past seven years.

Sumatran elephants are a subspecies of the Asian elephant, one of the two large mammal species in the world.

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