Eleven people sentenced for killing five Sumatran elephants in Indonesia

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Sumatran elephants in conservation center, photo: Marjorie Li via Canva

An Indonesian court on Thursday jailed eleven people for killing five critically endangered Sumatran elephants and illegally trading their tusks.

In early 2020, authorities found the dead elephants at a palm oil plantation in the remote village of Tuwie Peuriya in Aceh. The animals had been killed by high-voltage electrocution by a fence intentionally installed at the palm oil plantation.

Aceh’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency estimated the animals, who were found without their tusks, died two months before they were discovered in January 2020.

The investigation lasted more than a year. Police arrested the poachers in August and September last year. Aceh Jaya district court in Sumatra gave nine men prison sentences between 10 months and three-and-a-half years for poaching.

Two other people have to go to jail for almost two years for their involvement in the trade of the elephants’ tusks. In recent years, elephants on the island have been killed by electrocution, poisoning, or decapitation.

A one-year-old elephant died after losing half of his trunk in a poacher’s snare in November. In July, an elephant was found beheaded with his tusks removed after being poisoned.

Aceh’s conservation agency estimates the region has only about 500 Sumatran elephants still living in the wild. The Sumatran elephant is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Deforestation has reduced the elephants’ habitat and brought them into increasing conflict with humans.

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