3 March 2012
As Asian Elephants continue to face threats in the wild, their population has dwindled to the point that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the Sumatran sub-species of Asian Elephant as critically endangered. There is believed to be between 2,400 and 2,800 Sumatran Elephants remaining in the wild, a 50% decrease since 1985 and as the pressures that humans inflict only increase, scientists believe that the Sumatran Elephant could be extinct within 30 years.
Like most species on the planet, habitat destruction is the biggest threat to Elephants. As humans build and develop, we encroach onto the animals' habitat, taking away vital food and water sources, and restrict their movements so they cannot reach potential mates.
In Sumatra especially, the rate of deforestation is extremely dramatic, with 70% of the Elephants natural habitat already wiped out. Where the rainforest once stood, mass areas of palm plantations take their place, once established; these palm plantations offer a tasty meal to the starving elephant population, who are met by gunfire, poison and villagers trying to protect their crops and livelihood.
Here at Australia Zoo we work closely with Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors to aid Asian Elephants, we support two conservation projects in Cambodia and Sumatra by providing them with much needed financial support and equipment such as vehicles, camera and tracking devices. Some of the ways in which these projects help Asian Elephants are as follows:
- Land planning with government bodies to stop deforestation of vital Elephant habitat.
- Providing farmers with chilli bushes and beehives - both natural deterrents of Elephants.
- Building schools and supplying education equipment and teaching about Elephant conservation.
- Educating locals on how to deter Elephants without using lethal methods.
- Increasing welfare standards in Elephant camps.
The Sumatran Elephant now joins the Sumatran Orangutan, Sumatran Tiger and the Sumatran Rhino on the critically endangered species list.