The dense lowland forests in the north of the island of Sumatra hold some of the world’s most magnificent, rare, and unique animals and some of the most dedicated people devoted to their preservation. Working out of 7 base camps throughout Aceh Province, the Conservation Response Unit (CRU) teams of skilled, conservation-management trained mahouts and their elephants are the frontline workers protecting wildlife and habitat. And they need our help.
Shifting global priorities and economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a lack of resources which puts these vital CRUs in peril. The government enforced stay at home orders, and closing borders and non-essential businesses have caused a loss of livelihood in many communities which may lead to increased poaching and illegal use of forested areas by families looking to make ends meet.
Wildlife officers, mahouts, and trained elephants patrol the forests and protected areas of the Leuser Ecosystem in Northern Sumatra to prevent and stop poaching and wildlife crime, protect habitat from encroachments, and mitigate human-elephant conflict. Funding cuts within the government’s department of nature conservation are forcing the CRUs to rely increasingly on the global community for financial support. Despite minimal resources, these CRU teams are still getting work done. When patrols received reports of an injured wild Sumatran elephant calf in a remote area of Aceh, they were unable to provide immediate assistance due to budget cuts in the wake of COVID-19. Thankfully the CRU team reached out to IEF’s field partner CRU Aceh who sent local community rangers to track and monitor the calf and determine the best way to provide medical assistance. In addition, CRU Aceh sent staff with technical knowledge to help build an electric fence to prevent future elephant injuries and conflict incidents with a nearby community. This fence will help keep both elephants and human settlements safe.
In the wake of COVID-19, incidences of conflict have been more frequent, and not always in expected ways. The current restriction of funds means that some CRU elephants are allowed to graze in the forest at night as money is limited to purchase the regular nutritional supplements and elephant fodder. This puts them at some risk from wild elephants that inhabit the area. Unfamiliar elephants may act aggressively toward each other in an attempt to establish territory and dominance and such an altercation occurred recently resulting in puncture wounds to both a male and female CRU elephant. Both CRU elephants were immediately tended to by their human teammates, as well as the veterinarians (sent by CRU Aceh) and are recovering. The International Elephant Foundation’s support and partnership with CRU Aceh enabled this immediate veterinary response as well as adding firecrackers to that CRU camp’s nonlethal deterrent methods which when set off will scare wild herds away from future potential conflict situations.
In a land with tigers, rhinos, orangutans, gibbons, elephants, and countless other incredible species, both fauna and flora, the stakes for conservation actions are high. Prior to COVID-19 every day brought new, sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges, but the CRUs met each one with a determination to protect what’s left of this wild.
COVID-19 has now made their job more difficult by increasing conflict and crime while having fewer resources to do the job. But no matter what, it is clear this work must continue to head off the damage and maintain the conservation gains the CRU teams have built prior to the global crisis. The brave CRU teams, both humans and elephants, need our support now more than ever.
Join the CRU frontline workers in their fight to save elephants and habitat by supporting their work.
- $44 = provisions for one human patrol team member for the length of an entire patrol (4 days)
- $5 = food and care for one elephant per day
- $150 = food & care for one of the CRU team elephants for 1 month
Donation-Pandemic & Lockdown Impacts in Sumatra
All financial donations to IEF, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, are tax deductible under United States law.
Thanks to our many generous friends and supporters, we’re moving forward with a vision that promotes elephant conservation, scientific investigation and education. We don’t expect the future to be easy, but we are up to the task.