Elephas maximus sumatranus
The Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) is a unique subspecies of the Asian elephant only found on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. The Sumatran elephant has been placed on the list of Critically Endangered species after losing half of its population in a single generation. Currently an approximate population of 1700 Sumatran elephants are left in the wild. Increasing fragmentation of the habitat has led to increased human-elephant conflict (HEC), which presents a major threat to elephant survival. The conversion of elephant habitat leads to the increase of exposure between human and wild elephants.
My connection with the Asian Elephant came about in 2005 through the work that he was doing with Zoos Victoria. It was here that I was introduced to three species of critically endangered wildlife, the Sumatran Orangutan, Tiger and of course Elephant. This experience gave me the opportunity to not only learn about these unique creatures but also form friendships with some of the keepers and get involved in the conservation programs outside of their zoo work that they are working in, which are helping to preserve and maintain these species in their natural habitats. In 2008 one such program took him to Tankahan in North Sumatra (Indonesia) it was here at the Conservation Response Unit (CRU) part of the Sumatran Elephant Conservation Programme that I witnessed first hand the full impact that deforestation and the illegal wildlife trade is having on these animals. Established in December 2002 the CRU utilizes trained, captive elephants, their mahouts, park rangers and local community representatives for direct, successful field-based conservation interventions. These units support the conservation of wild elephants and habitat, and create opportunities for local communities, achieving positive outcomes for both elephants and people.
“Save the elephants, and then you save the forest and then you save yourself.”― Mark Shand