Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Sumatran Elephant

The Sumatran elephant is one of three subspecies of the Asian elephant (the Indian elephant, which we saw in an elephant camp in Thailand is one and the Sri Lankan elephant which we saw in a number of national parks in Sri Lanka is the other).  The IUCN rates the Sumatran elephant as Critically Endangered. In 1985 a survey determined that there were between 2,800 and 4,800 Sumatran elephants in the wild in 44 ranges and 8 provinces. In 2002, a survey in Lampung Province determined that elephants were then extinct in 9 of the 12 provinces that had them in 1985. In 2008 it was determined that elephants were extinct in 23 of the 44 ranges in the 1985 survey. In Riau Province it was estimated that there were 350 elephants in 9 ranges, down from 1,600 elephants in 1985. There are no good elephant surveys in Sumatra recently. Our guide in Tangkahan, who took us to the elephant center and the next day into Gunung Leuser NP said he had seen one in the wild. Our guide in Bukit Lawang, who took us into Gunung Leuser NP said he had seen a few elephants in the wild and two tigers. These two men that go into the national park almost daily for their livelihoods have only seen a few wild elephants between them. So the only realistic way to see them is at an elephant center.

Between 1986 and 1995 520 wild elephants were captured and put in six elephant training centers that were established, one each in the provinces of Lampung, Aceh, Bengkulu, North Sumatra, South Sumatra and Riau. The capture of wild elephants was stopped in 1999 because it was too expensive. In 2000 there were 391 elephants overall in these centers. At the North Sumatran center in Tangkahan, on the edge of Gunung Leuser NP, which we visited, they had nine elephants, 7 adults and 2 babies (one of the adults a male with large tusks and another teenager that will need to be moved soon in order to avoid conflict with the older male) when we visited. 

The Sumatran elephant is differentiated from other Asian elephants by larger ears, smaller tusks, an extra pair of ribs, lighter skin and lesser depigmentation on the skin. 

Following are photos and videos from our visit with Sumatran elephants in Tangkahan, in the Province of North Sumatra. 

1 comment:

  1. It was fun to interact with these elephants. Thank you for not posting all the photos of me looking like a drowned rat.