Oyos Saroso H.N., THE JAKARTA POST, Lampung | Thu, 02/19/2009 11:43 AM
Wild Sumatran elephants from the Way Kambas National Park (TNWK) have destroyed hundreds of hectares of rice and other crops in several villages in the three districts of Labuhan Ratu, Way Jepara and Purbolinggo, in East Lampung regency.
The attacks caused panic among local residents as the animals strayed in to residential areas. Labuhan Ratu resident Ruslani, 40, said Wednesday that villagers were frightened because some had previously been stomped to death by raging elephants.
“They come in a group of about 30 every night, destroying our rice paddies, cacao, cassava and corn farms,” said Ruslani, who claimed to have lost his 2-hectare cassava farm through such an attack.
He added all the men in the village were now patrolling each night to prevent the elephants encroaching on the village, by shining lamps and making noise with a traditional kentongan (bamboo or wood tubes knocked together to produce warning signals) and bamboo fireworks.
But Ruslani said the herd did not seem to get frightened at all, despite this tactic often having succeeded in the past.
“They seem to have more guts today. Now it’s us who are frightened that they may fight us back.”
The elephants, according to Ruslani, have been entering the villages since January. They usually come at night and leave at dawn.
“They’re capable of destroying 6 to 7 hectares of rice paddies and other plantations in a single night,” he said.
Mudir, 40, of Tegalyoso, Purbolinggo, said the elephants had destroyed his 2-hectare corn farm, which he depended on heavily to pay his children’s school fees.
Efforts to drive the wild elephants back into the forest have been carried out by the TNWK and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) by deploying forest rangers and activists using four trained elephants every night.
But the herd continues to come back, destroying farms and property in its wake.
A 29-kilometer-long canal, running through 12 swamps in the three villages of Labuhan Ratu 6, 7 and 9 has been built by the park to prevent the elephants encroaching. But after it was damaged in early 2007, small groups of between 10 and 15 wild elephants began entering the villages.
Bigger groups of elephants have also attacked the villages, with the TNWK recording up to 59 elephants in such a group.
Lone elephants have also been reported attacking villages around the Bukit Barisan National Park (TNBBS) in Ulubelu district, Tanggamus regency, destroying ready-to-harvest rice, coffee and coconut crops, as well as farmers’ huts.
Hendrawan, director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment’s (Walhi) Lampung branch, said environmental damage in the elephants’ habitats through rampant illegal logging was behind the attacks.
“We can’t just blame the elephants. They wouldn’t do this if their habitat was still intact,” he said.