Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Elephant Sanctuary in Sumatra Threatened by Bridge and Port Projects

Animals
Elephant Sanctuary in Sumatra Threatened by Bridge and Port Projects
Elephants at the Padang Sugihan Wildlife Reserve on Dec. 15, 2018. Khairul Abdi / CIFOR / Flickr

By Taufik Wijaya

The planned construction of a bridge and private port in southern Sumatra threatens to damage one of the last remaining habitats of the island's critically endangered elephants.


The project is part of the South Sumatra provincial government's tourism development drive, under which it plans to build a bridge from the Sumatran mainland to the island of Bangka. The site where the bridge will begin has also been earmarked for construction of a private port by a subsidiary of Indonesia's biggest paper producer, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP).

Environmentalists say both proposed projects will damage a crucial habitat of the Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus), a critically endangered species whose population has plunged as a result of habitat loss, human-wildlife conflicts, and poaching.

Forests in the area are already under intense pressure. APP's pulp and paper mill, said to be the biggest in Indonesia, has been lambasted by critics who say it will drive APP's appetite for pulpwood, compelling the company to clear more natural forest and peatlands. The mill has a greater production capacity than initially advertised.

Sumatran elephants in the Padang Sugihan Sebokor Wildlife Sanctuary in sourthern Sumatra.

Nopri Ismi / Mongabay Indonesia.

The location in question includes the Padang Sugihan Sebokor Wildlife Sanctuary, a particularly important hub for the elephants as it connects smaller populations in several other fragments of forest. Combined, these peatland habitats are home to an estimated 152 elephants, according to Jumiran, a local elephant conservation official. In December last year, conservation groups recorded five new elephant calves, indicating that the population is thriving in the sanctuary.

If the authorities have any intention to ensure the elephants' continued survival, they should protect the area from any future development, said Yusuf Bahtimi, from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), who has studied this region of Sumatra extensively.

For instance, he said, any roads connecting to the planned bridge or port should be elevated, to allow the elephants to continue wandering below. "We can make that happen," he said. "We made it to the moon, so protecting the elephant corridor and habitat should be easy."

Yusuf also said the government should anticipate an influx of people to the area once the infrastructure projects were underway. To prevent unchecked sprawl and destruction of the forest, "the government must zone the area properly and correctly.

"[It should] state clearly which areas can be developed for what purposes, and which must be protected," he added. "The areas to be protected include the corridors and habitats of the Sumatran elephant, peatland and forests.

"Failing to do so will result in conflicts between humans and elephants, which the elephants will lose."

Yusuf also warned against a proposal to relocate the elephants from the area, saying this had been tried here in 1982, when the national government was incentivizing residents of Java to move to other islands across Indonesia.

"It failed," he said of the relocation. "The elephants were moved because the location for the transmigration program was in their habitat. But the relocated elephants returned to the habitat."

Since then, Yusuf said, authorities had allowed the area to revert to the wildlife sanctuary that it is today. The only solution, he said, "is to live in peace with the elephants."

That's what locals have been doing for years, according to Edi Rusman, a farmer in Perigi Talangnangka village, near the wildlife sanctuary. He said there had never been any human-elephant conflicts there involving local residents, and that any conflicts that did arise involved migrants and companies operating in the area.

"Any type of development will create conflicts if it doesn't protect the elephant habitat," Edi said. "So be careful with doing development."

One of the young male elephants at the Padang Sugihan Elephant Training Center on Dec. 15, 2018.

Rifky / CIFOR

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

Electric vehicles are the cars of the future. sl-f / Getty Images

By 2035, every new car and truck sold in the U.S. could be an EV, a new report says.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York, a polluted nearly 2 mile-long waterway that is an EPA Superfund site. Jonathan Macagba / Moment / Getty Images

Thousands of Superfund sites exist around the U.S., with toxic substances left open, mismanaged and dumped. Despite the high levels of toxicity at these sites, nearly 21 million people live within a mile of one of them, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Read More Show Less
Trending
The National Weather Service station in Chatham, Massachusetts, near the edge of a cliff at the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Bryce Williams / National Weather Service in Boston / Norton

A weather research station on a bluff overlooking the sea is closing down because of the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Amsterdam is one of the Netherlands' cities which already has "milieuzones," where some types of vehicles are banned. Unsplash / jennieramida

By Douglas Broom

  • If online deliveries continue with fossil-fuel trucks, emissions will increase by a third.
  • So cities in the Netherlands will allow only emission-free delivery vehicles after 2025.
  • The government is giving delivery firms cash help to buy or lease electric vehicles.
  • The bans will save 1 megaton of CO2 every year by 2030.

Cities in the Netherlands want to make their air cleaner by banning fossil fuel delivery vehicles from urban areas from 2025.

Read More Show Less
Protestors stage a demonstration against fracking in California on May 30, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A bill that would have banned fracking in California died in committee Tuesday.

Read More Show Less