By Kevin Heath
The Rapid Response Facility of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) has launched an emergency appeal to help protect the critically endangered Sumatran elephant. A significant increase in poaching of the animals in Aceh, Indonesia means that local conservation group HAkA is in urgent need of more resources.
With just 500 Sumatran elephants remaining in the Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, any loss of an individual threatens the long-term survival of the species. The animals live in part of a World Heritage Site that is currently on the in danger list.
Rising levels of poaching is just the latest in a range of threats to the elephant. Habitat loss and fragmentation is also placing the species under pressure. But poaching is considered now to be a major threat.
So far in 2014 rangers have cleared away 139 snares in the habitat which is more than was cleared in all of 2013. Despite the high number of snares discovered by rangers so far this year the major poaching season has not yet started. It’s during the dry season – beginning in July – that the poachers really appear in force and ranger patrols need to be boosted to combat them.
The fragmentation of habitat makes it easy for poachers to target the elephants. As the forest cover fragments into smaller areas the elephants become more concentrated in number and this makes it easier for the poacher to find them and set the traps.
As the peak poaching season arrives the Rapid Response Facility has launched the emergency appeal to help HAkA to boost ranger numbers and patrols.
The appeal will allow the HAkA teams (made up of local community members and trained conservation professionals) to carry out essential patrols in the Leuser ecosystem throughout July, to remove snares from this key Sumatran elephant corridor during this most critical time.
Donations can be made through the Rapid Response Facility Just Giving page. Video.