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Sumatran Wildlife at Risk

BY NURDIN HASAN
(THE JAKARTA GLOBE)

Tame elephants in Saree of Aceh Besar district - FOTO NH
Banda Aceh, TAG –  The unbridled destruction of Sumatra’s forests over the past 20 years is the main reason for the 44 percent decline in the Sumatran elephant population during that period, wildlife activists said.
Donny Gunaryadi, the elephant program coordinator at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Indonesia program, said the wild elephant population on the island had dropped from around 5,000 in 1992 to just 2,800 today.

“The high rate of habitat destruction, land use changes and increased threats from poaching and conflicts with humans are all factors in the decline of the population of this protected species,” he said.
Sunarto, the species conservation program coordinator at WWF Indonesia, said it was crucial to conserve the region’s remaining forests in order to ensure the survival of wildlife such as the Sumatran elephant and tiger.
“The opening up of forested areas that are of prime importance to tigers and elephants must be halted immediately,” he said. “It is also high time that land use policies for forested areas began incorporating ecological considerations to prevent human-animal conflicts.”
The activists were speaking at a workshop in Banda Aceh organized by the Indonesian Elephant Conservation Forum (FKGI), in cooperation with the WCS, WWF and Fauna-Flora International over the weekend.
Participants at the event all agreed on the importance of stemming habitat loss from illegal logging and clear-cutting of forests, which also threatens other species indigenous to Sumatra.
Satellite imagery of the change in forest cover in Sumatra’s lowland areas shows that 8 million hectares were wiped out between 1990 and 2000, Sunarto said.
That, he continued, coupled with the fact that much of the natural habitat of elephants and tigers fell outside of protected areas, meant the risks to the already critically endangered species was only increasing. “That’s why I believe that the protection of the elephant and tiger’s habitat is the most important factor in saving the species,” he stressed.
“There also needs to be more stringent enforcement against the illegal clearing of forests, poaching and selling of wildlife.” In order for any elephant conservation program to prove effective, Sunarto said there needed to be an action plan and strategy supported by all stakeholders, particularly the government.
Also crucial was a push for a “win-win solution” that would boost conservation without impinging on the economic development of forest communities.
Donny said there was an urgent need to get the message across to the Forestry Ministry.
“Our hope is that conservation efforts for the Sumatran elephant will be better coordinated and managed after this workshop,” he said.[]
Sumatran Wildlife at Risk Sumatran Wildlife at Risk Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on April 03, 2012 Rating: 5

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