Killing of Five Endangered Elephants Hints at a Greater Conservation Dilemma

sumatra elephant photo

If trends continue, the Sumatra elephant may soon only survive in captivity. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Five endangered Sumatran elephants have been found dead in Indonesia and authorities believe they were poisoned by farmers. With fewer than 3,000 individuals surviving in increasingly fragmented groups, the loss to the species is severe—and the latest example of a trend that threatens the elephant's survival.The elephants&four; females and one male, all under the age of five—were likely poisoned with cyanide by nearby farmers. Elephants in the region are known for damaging crops.

This conflict, caused by the dramatic loss of elephant habitat, has proven to be one of the greatest challenges to conservation. Across Sumatra, more than 80 percent of former elephant habitat has been converted into plantations.

The fragmented populations of elephants that remain are forced to live in close contact with farmers, making conflicts inevitable. 65 percent of elephant deaths on the island are attributed to human persecution. Of this number, 30 percent die due to poisonings.

The elephants have been protected species since 1931.

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