By Jon Afrizal
The Indonesia Elephant Conservation Forum (FKGI) plans to build an elephant corridor to connect herds surviving in the concessions area of Bukit Tigapuluh in Jambi to provide a safe path for the endangered species.
FKGI head Krismanko Padang said the elephants’ trail was non-existent in the area currently managed under concession by rubber company PT Lestari Asri Jaya (LAJ) and PT Tebo Multi Agro (TMA) and in the former Dalek Hutani Esa forest concession.
Krismanko said that a 100-meter-wide trail along river border areas passing through the three areas would serve as the elephants’ corridor. The river border areas have been chosen because they are part of a protected forest.
The companies are required to preserve the river border areas according to government regulation.
“We expect the presence of the corridor would maintain the elephant population in the area as well as provide a wider trail for the elephants and more food supply so the elephants would no longer forage in people’s farms,” said Krismanko.
He acknowledged the man-made corridor was part of a concept which has yet to be proven successful in Indonesia, but FKGI would try to formulate it as best as possible.
The plan includes construction of the elephant corridor by planting candlenut trees, which act as a natural fence to prevent the elephants from entering the concession areas and residents’ farms.
“Elephants don’t like candlenut and it could also be used as a source of income for villagers and it can also be developed into a source of alternative energy,” said Krismanko, whose organization consists of researchers, members of the local community and representatives of the government and companies operating around the Bukit Tigapuluh area.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized the Sumatran elephant as an endangered species, as the population of the Asian elephant subspecies has dropped up to 80 percent over the past three decades.
Conflicts between elephants and humans have intensified due to land conversion, such as concession areas, housing and plantations. Based on data at the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) from 2011 to 2013, 38 elephants surviving in the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape were killed; some were poisoned.
The Bukit Tigapuluh is home to around 150 Sumatran elephants.
“Currently, a number of elephant herds have been separated as their habitat has been converted into forest concession and residential areas, therefore cutting their trails,” said Krismanko.
The dwindling number of elephant trails in the area has triggered conflicts between animals and humans.
One of the residents in Muara Sekalo village, Sumay district, Tebo regency, Baharun, complained about the escalation of elephant foraging in his village.
“Elephants have been foraging into our village since the days of our forefathers, but previously the elephants ventured into the village once a year, or once in six months. But now, you can say that we live together with the elephants,” said Baharun.
He regretted that the government had made regulations to protect the elephants but not their habitat. According to Baharun, the elephants prefer to live in residents’ farms in Muara Sekalo village ever since companies started dominating areas around his village.
“Our farms are not only damaged by the elephants, but we have been affected by pollution from companies located around our village,” said Baharun. One of the companies dumped waste from land clearance into the Andelang River, a water source for villagers, he said.