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Conservation Response Units in Aceh & Way Kambas, Sumatra

Why is this project so important?

With fewer than 2,000 Sumatran elephants remaining in the wild, this critically endangered Asian elephant sub-species is on the brink of extinction.

Poor land use planning, the growth of oil palm plantations and smallholder farms have brought people and wild elephants into close proximity, leading to conflict. Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil in the world. As demand for this product increases, expanding palm oil plantations continues to threaten the last remaining forest habitats which are home to many animal species.

The long-term conservation of this sub-species necessitates that people and elephants co-exist within the same landscape with minimal conflict, otherwise demands for the removal of crop-raiding elephants will be difficult for the government to ignore.

Incidents of human-elephant conflict in both Aceh and Way Kambas occur frequently, resulting in crop loss, damaged property and sometime even human fatalities. Human encroachment on national parks has contributed to the decline of elephant habitat, further increasing incidents of human-elephant conflict. Constant monitoring and patrolling of national parks is required to ensure that further encroachment does not occur.

Project Partner: Way Kambas Elephant Conservation Centre & Veterinary Society for Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC)

Duration: 2009-2012

Project goal: Provide healthcare and veterinary treatment to the elephants of Conservation Response Units in Aceh and Way Kambas National Park.

Way Kambas National Park elephant population: 247

Aceh elephant population: 500

What we do

Some time ago conservationists realised that Sumatra’s neglected captive elephants could not only be used to patrol the forests and reduce conflict, but could actually benefit from an improved life as a result.

Conservation Response Units (CRUs) support the conservation of wild elephants and their habitat and attain positive outcomes both elephants and people. With their well-trained mahouts, CRUs can be very effective at preventing illegal activity inside protected areas, as well as protecting villagers’ crops by driving wild elephants off fields and plantations and back into the forest. They are vital in developing good relationships with local communities around national parks in order to help change their perceptions of elephants, and engage them in conservation.

CRUs are one tool in a suit of options to try and resolve human-elephant conflict throughout Sumatra but much more is needed to support people and engender more empathy for the protection of elephant range. Elephant Family supported the healthcare of the elephants in these CRUs in both Aceh and Way Kambas National Park between 2009 and 2012.       

The Way Kambas CRU was formed in 2008 by Elephant Family’s partner, the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC) in collaboration with the Way Kambas Elephant Conservation Centre (ECC) management and mahouts. VESSWIC’s role was to oversee the project implementation and provide veterinary support to ensure the continued health and fitness of the CRU elephants.