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. 

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