Human-elephant conflicts spike in Riau Province following forest fires

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Human-elephant conflicts spike in Riau Province following forest fires

One of the Sumatran elephants (elephas maximus sumatranus) that entered a plantation of a ocal farmer in Kelayang, Indragiri Hulu District, Riau Province, due to forest fires in Tesso Nilo National Park. (photo: antara/ HO-BBKSDA Riau/ FA)

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA) - Forest fires blazing in the Tesso Nilo National Park fueled more frequent conflicts between human beings and Sumatran elephants (elephas maximus sumatranus) in Riau Province, Indonesia this year.

"(Due to wildfires), elephants emerged from their habitats. That is their path of movement to survive, find food, and stay away from the haze," Hansen Siregar, head of the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Office (BBKSDA)'s Region I Unit, stated here on Monday.

In early October 2019, a herd of 17 elephants entered a residential area in Buluh Nipis Village, Kampar Kiri Hilir Sub-district, Kampar District. The elephants came from Tesso Nilo.

The elephants fled their habitat owing to forest fires that produced thick smog.

"In fact, four elephants crossed Kampar Kiri River," he added.

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A rescue team of the BBKSDA Riau herded the Sumatran elephants back to Tesso Nilo to prevent damages and casualties.

Two weeks ago, the team had also herded elephants entering Rantau Kasih Village, Gunung Sahilan Sub-district, Kampar District. The elephants also came from Tesso Nilo.

"We have conducted conflict mitigation efforts. The elephants were directed back to their habitat in Tesso Nilo," he remarked.

Tesso Nilo is home to the largest habitat of Sumatran elephants. However, forest fires and conversion of forest area into plantation and settlement areas have triggered human-elephant conflicts.

Forest fires, razing Tesso Nilo National Park over the last two months, have compelled elephants to leave their habitats to find food and safer places free from smog, he stated. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) recently drew attention to the critical condition of eight enclaves of the Sumatran elephant that may result in the species' extinction following changes in nature that have fueled conflict with humans.

"Several elephant enclaves have been transformed into palm oil plantations and industrial forest areas, thereby sparking greater conflicts with humans," Syamsidar, a spokesman of the WWF Riau Program, stated on June 14, 2019.

According to a survey by WWF, the elephant population in some enclaves had dwindled and could possibly result in local extinction.

Syamsidar remarked that only one elephant remained in each enclave in Rokan Hilir and Batang Ulak, whereas only three elephants were alive in Mahato-Barumun, while the Balai Raja enclave was home to only eight elephants.

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Editor: Febrianto Budi Anggoro
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