Sumatra project       
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Sumatran Elephant Healthcare and Conservation Project - Summary


Staff members Susan Mikota DVM and Hank Hammatt went to Sumatra in 2000 after receiving reports of elephant healthcare needs. They examined 41 elephants, and donated supplies. Realizing the ongoing needs, they resigned their United States positions, and with funds from a Guggenheim Foundation grant, private donations, and the sale of their house, moved to Indonesia in 2001. The goal was to improve elephant healthcare, train Indonesian veterinarians, and raise international support. In 2003 they were compelled to leave Indonesia after reporting to government officials a high rate of deaths of elephants under government care (85 percent dead within 3 years). Elephant Care International continues to support Indonesian veterinarians and efforts to help Sumatran elephants.

Details below

The World Wildlife Fund facilitated our first trip to Sumatra in April of 2000. We donated veterinary supplies, examined, and treated 41 elephants. Susan returned in August 2000 with the International Elephant Foundation team to provide additional veterinary care and training. The tremendous on-going needs prompted us to make a life-changing decision. We resigned our positions, sold our house and most of our possessions to fund the early phase of our project, and moved to Sumatra. A generous private donor, a Guggenheim Fellowship and contributions from zoos and individuals have supported our on-going efforts.

In August 2001 we witnessed 11 newly captured elephants with severe and largely preventable injuries. Working under difficult field conditions and with limited supplies,* we administered care. At the same time we organized a meeting of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working for elephant conservation in Indonesia to address 1) the long-term conservation impact of removing elephants from the wild and 2) the humane need to improve capture techniques. With the endorsement of WWF-Indonesia, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Fauna and Flora International, and the International Elephant Foundation, we requested a Moratorium against elephant captures from the Ministry of Forestry during which our NGO group would address the immediate need to improve capture techniques and the long-term need to develop alternatives to capture. The Moratorium was approved as was our request to establish a position for a Senior Veterinary Officer for Sumatra’s elephants that we would fund.

Circumstances necessitated our departure from Sumatra in October 2001 but we maintained contact with colleagues. We moved back to September 2002, not long after a report that 35 elephants were captured in the area where we had worked. Fourteen were dead.

We resumed our work with the captive elephants and began planning the Immobilization and Translocation Workshop to re-train and re-equip Sumatra’s capture teams. WCS staff was working on alternative conflict mitigation techniques. At the same time we began to compile information that eventually revealed the deaths of 74 elephants in Riau Province, during a 30-month period and a mortality rate of 85% among newly captured elephants. We had previously observed that ivory was removed from every elephant that died. On the advice of our WWF-Indonesia sponsor, we presented this information to officials within the Ministry of Forestry. Shortly thereafter we were harassed by immigration officials. Our WWF-Indonesia sponsor feared for our safety and advised us to leave the country.

Subsequent to our unplanned “exile” from Indonesia, we prepared a more detailed report with supporting documentation that our WWF-Indonesia sponsor then presented to even higher officials in the Ministry of Forestry. The facts continue to be denied.

We have shared our report with other pro-active Indonesian and international NGOs concerned with nature and wildlife. We have given many presentations and lobbied many groups to help resolve this situation but none are willing. We know that captures, deaths, and needless suffering are on-going. We continue to support colleagues within Indonesia who share our vision for change. A new national president was recently elected and has promised to lead the fight against corruption. We will do our part to help. (Much more information here)

* our shipment containing $25,000 of veterinary equipment and supplies and all of our personal belongings were detained by customs for 8 months.

Background   Mission/Goals/Strategies   Projects

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