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Facing the Human-Wildlife Conflict in Leuser Ecosystem amid Pandemic

Leuser Ecosystem is a home for millions of wildlife, including hundreds of endangered species. To save these magnificent creatures, we form a strong team that strive to save these wildlife, even in difficult situations due to the pandemic COVID-19.

In 2020, FKL successfully conducted five rescues on one Sumatran elephant, three Sumatran tigers and one Himalayan sun bear from human-wildlife conflict, particularly in the Leuser Ecosystem. Some of them were found entangled or caught in a snare, and some had conflicts with the local community.

Our first wildlife rescue in 2020 was started in February. The FKL team was informed there is an injured Sumatran elephant at a palm oil concession in Aceh Timur. Our Elephant Patrol team together with partners and local authorities, immediately went to the location and checked the condition of the elephant. Finding the elephant was quite difficult because there were many other teenage elephants in the group, but we were able to identify him and analysed that the elephant must be rescued and treated immediately seeing that a snare was stuck in his left leg (humerus sinister part). After a view attempt, the rescue team finally anaesthetised the target, and conducted on-site medical treatment. After about an hour, the elephant who then named Edi, woke up and immediately rushed towards the forest where his group was at. The rescue team believes that Edi will heal better in his habitat with his group, and certainly our Elephant Patrol Team will continue to monitor his health.

In March 2020, FKL received information about the presence of Sumatran tigers near Singgersing village, Subulussalam, southwestern part of Leuser Ecosystem. FKL vets, BKSDA Aceh (Aceh Natural Resource Conservation Energy) and other partners conducted camera and box trap installation right away. One teenage female tiger was caught in one of the traps on 5 March 2020. The tiger was named Dara, which means ‘Young Female’ in Acehnese language. After going through several medical procedures, Dara was stated to be healthy and ready to be released. On March 10th 2020, the relocation of this tiger was executed. Dara was released in Bengkung – Trumon Forest, part of the Leuser Ecosystem.

Another rescue was needed in June 2020, when another tiger-human conflict occurred in Aceh Selatan district. Partnered with related agencies, they set cages in conflicted areas.  On June 15th 2020, one adult female tiger was successfully captured.  The tiger, which was named Ida, went through a clinical observation and treatment at the Conservation Rescue Unit (CRU) Trumon. Ida was stated to be healthy and able to turn to her habitat. However, Ida has a minor psychological disorder, according to the doctor she is calmer in the cage compared to other wild tigers. This disorder is suspected to be caused by the pregnancy of the tiger. On June 20th 2020, Ida was successfully released by the team to Gunung Leuser National Park.

The last tiger rescue conducted this year was on October 17th 2020, when another Sumatran tiger was caught in a boar snare in Gayo Lues District. The FKL rescue team and other partners immediately conducted a rescue mission. This was the first and the worst case that the team has ever seen of a tiger caught in a snare trap because the wire was completely wrapped around its body and neck. It appeared to be a snare set for crop pests like wild boar. The team named her Malelang Jaya (or MJ for short). On-site observation and treatment was conducted, our team found paralysis issues in both of her hind legs, caused by a circulatory system and motor neuron problems. Intensive care and observations were carried out. Fortunately, in early November, Malelang Jaya’s condition had improved, and ready to return back to her habitat. On November 8th 2020, MJ was then released in a location close to where she was found and a snare clearing operation was carried out around the area.

At the end of the year, FKL also found a young Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus) trapped in a snare on a coffee and sugar palm plantation owned by the local community in Aceh Tengah. When the evacuation and medical teams consisting of FKL, BKSDA Aceh and the community were carrying out a rescue mission, they found the bear hanging on her feet. Her toenail was broken, and there was swelling around her left ankle behind which she was caught in the loop. The bear was put under anesthesia and released from the wire mesh that wrapped her leg. The team immediately treated the wound, and was given intravenous fluids and other medicines to speed up her recovery. After ensuring that her condition was stable, the rescue team immediately released the bear.

Of course this pandemic is a difficult moment for all of us, some of us are unlucky enough and lost their jobs, and some of them turn to illicit livelihoods, like poaching and other illegal forest activities. Surely, this case not only harms the wildlife, but all of us. In addition, the wildlife that are now being targeted or accidentally trapped in a snare, are endangered species that will increase the risk of our loss in the ecosystem. Each species has its own services in the ecosystem, and these wildlife are an apex species or large predators, who have a big contribution in providing ecosystem services. Chiefly, if we lose these endangered species and wildlife extinction occurs, we are harming the food chain, altering the ecosystem, and jeopardising our lives. We need to stop. 

Saving Malelang Jaya: Second Chance for a Sumatran Tiger in the Leuser Ecosystem

drh. Anhar Lubis (FKL’s Head Veterinarian) and drh. Rosa Rika Wahyuni (BKSDA’s Veterinarian) administering intravenous fluids to MJ during on-site medical treatment. (Photo credit: FKL)

2020 has been a tough year for all of us: humans and wildlife alike. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded and economic pressures in Aceh and North Sumatra have driven more people to seek income sources from the forest, we have witnessed increases in forest loss in the Leuser Ecosystem after a four year steady decline in deforestation. The ongoing threats of poaching and human-wildlife conflict have also intensified. Leuser Conservation Forum (FKL), together with local government authorities, have rescued 3 tigers this year so far from wildlife snares. Fortunately we were able to successfully release all 3 back into the wild, however, a fourth tiger was recently found dead – apparently due to poisoning. These incidents mark an increase in human-tiger conflicts in comparison to our findings from previous years.

This particular story is about one of these 3 tigers which we rescued and released this year in Aceh, Sumatra. On October 17th, FKL received a report from a local official that a tiger had been found caught in a snare inside the Leuser Ecosystem. Fortunately one of FKL’s teams including a veterinarian was close to the site and so able to act fast. They found the 2-3 year old female tiger in a critical condition, tightly wound up in a wire snare. She had obviously stepped into the snare and her desperate attempts to escape had served to tighten the trap further. She had possibly been trapped for 1-2 days and without attention she would have almost certainly died. Forming a team with the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Aceh, Gunung Leuser National Park (TNGL), Forest Management Unit V of Aceh Province (KPH V) and other partners, we worked together to free her from the snare and treat her injuries. Never before had our experienced team seen a snare binding the whole body of a tiger in this way – it was tight around her upper chest and back, stomach, and neck. It appeared to be a snare set for crop pests like wild boar. We named her Malelang Jaya (or MJ for short), which is the name of the village near which she was found in Aceh.

FKL veterinarian and rescue staff working alongside other partners to treat the injured tiger. (Photo credit: FKL)

On-site treatment included antibiotics and anti-ectoparasites agents, eye protection ointment as well as intravenous (IV) fluids and vitamins to improve her condition. Following treatment the medical team considered releasing MJ until they observed paralysis in both of her hind legs. The faster wildlife can be returned to the wild the better, however, paralysis would severely impact her ability to survive therefore she was moved instead to a safer location for further observation and intensive care. 

After tests and intensive observation the team suspected that the paralysis issue was likely caused by a circulatory system and motor neuron problem. The medical team treated the tiger with additional medications, IV fluid as well as proper nutrition. In order to determine when to release her, she was also regularly monitored by the medical team in terms of recovery, behaviour, and any signs of infectious disease, or permanent injury which could impact her ability to hunt.

Fortunately, in early November, Malelang Jaya’s condition had improved sufficiently for the team to see the possibility of returning her to the wild. Based on information from the local community, on November 9th, the tiger was released in a location close to where she was found and a snare clearing operation was conducted by FKL prior to the release to ensure her safety. We are very grateful that this collective effort between FKL, BKSDA Aceh, DLHK Aceh, the local hospital, the community and other partners enabled the release to become a reality. ““This was the first and the worst case that I have ever seen of a tiger caught in a snare trap because the wire was wrapped completely around its body and neck” said Zulius, FKL’s veterinarian. “The local community of Gayo Lues were very cooperative. In fact they encouraged us to release the tiger – close to where it was found so that it could return safely to the forest. They accept tigers as part of the environment where they live and they believe that tigers won’t disturb us unless we disturb them”, Zulius added.

FKL and other partners untying the transport crate prior to MJ’s release. (Photo credit : FKL)

The Sumatran tiger is one of the 4 charismatic key species in the Leuser Ecosystem and plays a pivotal role in the health of the ecosystem. They roam the mountainous forest regions of the Leuser Ecosystem as well as the lowlands. This is the last tiger species native to Indonesia and sadly it is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Many human activities threaten their existence with human-wildlife conflict and deforestation among the most serious threats they are facing. It is very important that all of us look at Sumatran tigers the same way as the local community of Gayo Lues does to prevent future conflict and to ensure the natural balance of the ecosystem.

Rescue Anak Beruang Madu

Rescue Anak Beruang Madu

Pada sore hari tanggal 8 Agustus, seorang personil dari markas militer di tingkat kabupaten di Kabupaten Aceh Timur melaporkan melalui telepon ke Tim Perlindungan Gajah (EPT) FKL yang berdasarkan pengamatannya di tepi hutan yang berbatasan dengan perkebunan masyarakat bahwa beruang madu tertangkap di jerat.

Sun Bear Cub Rescue

Sun Bear Cub Rescue

On the afternoon of the 8th of August, a personnel from the military headquarters on the district level at in Aceh Timur District reported via phone to the FKL’s Elephant Protection Team (EPT) that based on his observation in the edge of the forest bordering community plantations that a sun bear cub is caught on a snare.

Perjalanan 3 Hari untuk Mengobati Dua Gajah yang Terluka

Perjalanan 3 Hari untuk Mengobati Dua Gajah yang Terluka

Tim Perlindungan Gajah FKL (EPT) dan Tim Patroli CRU sedang melakukan patroli rutin di Kawasan Ekosistem Leuser, kabupaten Aceh Timur. Sementara pada patroli mereka pada tanggal 27 Juli, tim menemukan sekelompok gajah liar yang berkeliaran.

3 Day Journey to Treat Two Injured Elephants

3 Day Journey to Treat Two Injured Elephants

FKL’s Elephant Protection Team and CRU’s Patrol Team was conducting its regular patrols in the Leuser Ecosystem, Aceh Timur district. Whilst on their patrol on the 27th July, the team came across a group of wild elephants roaming.

Please vote for Salma!

Please vote for Salma!

Salma is a baby elephant that was injured due to her foot being caught in a snare. Since the rescue, FKL has been treating her at the CRU in Aceh Timur District. Your vote could help our field team with $10,000 fund to help with her treatment and to release her back in the wild with her family.

Please vote! And you can vote once a day. Your vote will matter so much to Salma!

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