By Diana Parker
A baby elephant held hostage by villagers in Indonesia’s Aceh province was finally handed over to authorities on June 27. Villagers had been taking care of two elephant calves – Raju, who was just a few weeks old, and two-year-old Raja. But after Raja died suddenly last month, a social media campaign sprung up to raise money for Raju’s rescue.
Abdul Thaleb could not hold back tears as he watched rescuers prepare Raju, a baby Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) likely no more than a few weeks old, for the six-hour journey from Aceh’s Blang Pante village to the Saree Elephant Conservation Center (PKG), which would be his new home. Thaleb had been caring for Raju since villagers found the baby elephant alone without its mother in a nearby forest on June 18. For ten days, he had been feeding the still-nursing calf by hand, fashioning makeshift bottles from plastic bags and purchasing baby formula with donations and money from his own pocket.
“I hope Raju will get better in Saree,” 25-year-old Thaleb told Mongabay-Indonesia. “I was devastated by the death of Raja. Raju must survive.”
The rescue marked the end of a tense standoff between the community and local authorities over Raju’s fate. Raju had been one of two baby elephants living in Blang Pante village. Earlier, villagers had also cared for a two-year-old calf, Raja, after they found the young elephant near the village without its mother. More....