World Elephant Day and What's Left in Sumatra For Them

12 August 2022 23:51 WIB

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - World Elephant Day is commemorated worldwide on August 12, which celebrates the relationship between elephants and humans throughout the history of civilization. In Asia, elephants have lived in parallel with humans for more than 4,000 years. Its existence is highly respected and associated with various cultural and spiritual customs.

In Thailand, for example, elephants are national icons with a national holiday dedicated entirely to them. Elephants can even receive titles from the ruling kingdom.

Elephants are seen as a key species because these large mammals play a role in promoting healthy ecosystems and promoting biodiversity for their environment. As the World Elephant Day website puts it, “Losing elephants means losing environmental stewards and animals from which we have a lot to learn.”

It said elephants could be saved by enforcing stronger local and international protection policies and laws against poaching and the ivory trade. Apart from promoting better management of natural habitats, educating people about the vital role of elephants in the ecosystem, and improving the way elephants are treated in captivity.

"If necessary, reintroduce captive elephants into wildlife sanctuaries to allow for natural replenishment of endangered populations."

Elephant habitat at Padang Sugihan 

In the subdistrict of Air Sugihan in South Sumatra, conservation efforts are evident by encouraging kids through the “Elephant and Human Living in Harmony” stage performance for elementary school students in the area held from July to September 2022.

Songs and documentary films were also made to show footage of the fairy tale performance by Inug Fairy Tale which shows the perspective of elephant experts, local state officials, public figures, teachers, and students. 

"In addition to being shown on our YouTube channel, this film will also be screened around eight schools in the village bordering the Sugihan-Simpang Heran elephant corridor," said Taufik Wijaya, an environmental and cultural documentary film community practitioner, in a written statement.

He hopes that fairy tales can provide knowledge and help children understand so that they can coexist, share, and be in harmony with elephants. The series of activities at Air Sugihan is a collaboration of the Belantara Foundation, Forest Wildlife Society, and Rumah Sriksetra, which is supported by KNCF [Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund] based in Japan.

Dolly Priatna, Executive Director of the Belantara Foundation, explained the choice of location for the activity, the Padang Sugihan landscape, is one of the few pockets of elephant populations that have a long-term survival chance.

Remaining wild elephants in the concession area

Currently, the Sumatran elephant population continues to be threatened either by poaching, hunted by those that see elephants as pests for plantations and agriculture, or loss of sufficient natural habitats. The current population of Sumatran elephants does not even reach 2,000 and live in a number of pockets in the highlands to the lowlands or the coastal regions such as Aceh, North Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, Lampung, and Bengkulu.

One of the habitats is located in Air Sugihan, Ogan Komering Ilir, the corridor through the concession area of PT. Kerawang Ekawana Nugraha, PT. Sebangun Bumi Andalas, PT. Bumi Andalas Permai, to PT. Green Blooming Earth.

At least 48 wild elephants live in the Sugihan-Simpang Heran enclave, which is divided into four family groups. This enclave is part of the Padang Sugihan landscape, which consists of four pockets of wild elephants namely Cengal, Penyembungan, Sebokor, and Sugihan-Simpang Heran. It covers an area of 232,338.71 hectares and about 127 individual wild elephants live in the Padang Sugihan landscape.

MARIA FRANSISCA LAHUR

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