A study of human elephant conflict in Sumatra, Indonesia



Posted on 16 November 2010  | 
Elisabet with elephant
© WWF / Elisabet PurastutiEnlarge
I was recipient of the Prince Bernhard Scholarship in 2009 when I was studying a Masters degree in Environmental Sciences at University of Indonesia. Before, I was working at WWF-Indonesia for Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (BBSNP), Lampung, Sumatra conservation program. One of the problems in BBSNP coservation is human elephant conflict.

Major efforts to mitigate the conflict have been seriously made, such as escort, drive-outs, but yet the situation continues. The conflict has been responsible for the decreasing number of Sumatran elephants and led to a number of local extinctions. Altogether this has a negative impact on the conservation of the elephant in the wild. It is therefore essential to have a better conflict strategy.

The focus of my study is to analyze the movement pattern based on non-biotic and biotic conditions of elephant habitat; land utilization and management by the local community; and mitigation efforts carried out to deal with the conflict. This study is taking place in Sekincau, a part of National Park of Bukit Barisan Selatan, Lampung. The Prince Bernhard Scholarship has supported me in my research, such as field surveys, interviews with local people, water analysis, GIS and Remote Sensing analysis.

The results of my study are: elephant movement is by the river (a radius of between 0 and 500m from the river) with fodder supply. Elephants prefer areas with closely packed vegetation mostly in daylight for shelter. Elephants are also attracted to areas with mineral supply. Elephants like crops that are cultivated by local people, such as rice, cacao, coconut, banana, and vegetable, horticultural crops, etc.. As rice is the elephant's favorite crop, their movement pattern has been very much influenced by the rice harvesting time. Local custom to provide storage for rainwater in the fields has made the area even more attractive. In short, the people provide the major needs of the elephants to survive: fodder, water, and shelter.

On the other hand, deforestation within the elephant home range was going on. The elephant home range is 496 Km2, but the remaining forest within the hom range was no more than 27 Km2. Thus, when the forest size gets smaller than the carrying capacity requires, conflict is unavoidable. Human and elephant conflict is mostly driven by environmental degradation but its mitigation still depends on symptomatic solutions, including drive-outs and escorts, that allow the conflict to extend.

Above is a short story of my research that was supported by PBS. Thank you PBS.

Elisabet Maria Purastuti, Indonesia
Elisabet with elephant
© WWF / Elisabet Purastuti Enlarge
Human elephant conflict
© WWF / Elisabet Purastuti Enlarge
Conducting interview with local community
© WWF / Elisabet Purastuti Enlarge

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