Bunta, a patrol elephant working to protect his wild cousins in the Aceh province of Sumatra was found dead on June 9th, a victim of poisoning by poachers. Bunta was found with one of his tusks brutally removed. The 27-year-old critically endangered Sumatran elephant had worked with forest rangers, mahouts, and other trained elephants as part of a Conservation Response Unit (CRU) patrol team in the Leuser Ecosystem, one of Indonesia’s last and largest patches of intact rainforest.

In an unprecedented move, the local forest authority, BKSDA, immediately offered a reward for information leading to the capture of those responsible; they were joined by the Governor of Aceh. The International Elephant Foundation stepped up to add to the reward, and challenged fellow elephant advocates, Asian Elephant Support, to match our donation. Together, IEF and AES matched BKSDA’s initial reward, taking the total to well over Rp 140Million (Rupiah).

Even though Bunta was not a member of one of the IEF-supported CRU teams, we strongly believe in the CRU concept and the ability for elephant ambassadors to make a measurable difference in the lives of their wild counterparts. We are appalled at this action by poachers, who are increasingly turning to poisoning as a preferred method to silently and stealthily destroy these majestic animals. We hope that those responsible will be caught and held accountable as soon as possible.