The Sumatran elephant is a majestic species. Capable of reaching a shoulder height of between 2 and 3.2 m (6.6 and 10.5 ft), the Sumatran elephant weighs between 2,000 and 4,000 kg (4,400 and 8,800 lb) and possesses 20 pairs of ribs. But while they were once found in abundance, today the Sumatran elephants are critically endangered.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is one of the NGOs that has taken a special interest in the population of the Sumatran elephants living in the Sumatran habitat. In its latest report, the WWF noted that elephant deaths declined to four in 2016 from 10 in 2015.
While WWF believes that the four deaths were due to human-animal conflicts, the NGO specializing in wilderness preservation singled out PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), the operations arm of APRIL, and Asian Agri for praise by being involved in the effort to reduce harm to the Sumatran elephants and by adopting the human-wildlife conflict mitigation system recommended by the WWF and the Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) of Riau.
Among the measures RAPP has adopted is an “Elephant Flying Squad” (EFS) consisting of at least four grown elephants and two calves whose task is to conduct patrols around the concession area to avert human-wildlife conflict as well as to prevent elephant herds from trespassing into residential areas or villages. RAPP started its EFS in 2004 with four elephants who are taken care of by mahouts (elephant trainers), a medical team and support staff.
In fact, beyond reducing conflicts between elephants and the human population, the EFS is also proving to be quite talented in encouraging affection between the elephants in its herd: Since its founding, there have been two baby elephants born and they are being taken care of by the mahouts and the team.
WWF noted that Palm oil producer Asian Agri, too, is committed to ensuring the well-being of the Sumatran elephants by reducing human-animal conflicts.
“They perform the patrol manually, without any elephants, but still adopt the measures used by the WWF, such as using a carbide cannon,” Syamsidar, spokesperson of WWF Riau Programme said.