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Rampaging Elephants Force Indonesians To Relocate

Donny Gunariadi from Wildlife Conservation Society said training courses were being run on how to calmly ward off the animals. "The people need to be trained to handle this matter. To protect them and to prevent them from killing the elephants," Gunariadi told AFP.
by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) April 25, 2007
Thousands of Indonesians will be relocated on Sumatra island after wild elephants repeatedly attacked their villages killing six people, officials said Wednesday. The local government will move about 10,000 people living in Bukit Barisan National Park, a protected habitat for the animals whose numbers on the island are fast diminishing.

Villagers in the past have co-existed with the elephants in the 363,000 hectare (896,000 acre) park which has been declared a World Heritage Site.

But new communities were springing up in the park, encroaching on the animals' habitat and causing a series of violent clashes, an official at the Lampung provincial forestry office said.

"We need to relocate thousands of people living in the national park zones to prevent the clashes from recurring," official Arinal Junaidi said.

Conversation group WWF said the elephants had trampled six people to death in the park in the past 12 months and destroyed villages and crops.

Nurchalis Fadli of WWF added that it appeared the same six female elephants were involved the clashes, although it was unclear why.

"It was not their fault. The incidents have occurred in the elephants' natural habitat," Fadli told AFP.

He added the relocation of the villagers was a huge task, as they had built communities and were farming crops.

WWF has also attempting to track the movement of the animals, by tagging their necks with a device containing a global satellite positioning system, Fadli said.

Six elephants had been tagged since November, he added.

The WWF has said that elephants in Sumatra, one of two Indonesian islands where they are found, were dying at an alarming pace with numbers dropping by 75 percent in just 18 years.

As of 2003, only about 350 to 430 wild elephants remained on the island in seven provinces, it said. Their natural habitat is being increasingly taken over by resettlement, plantations and industrial estates.

About 1,000 Borneo elephants are thought to be on that island.

Donny Gunariadi from Wildlife Conservation Society said training courses were being run on how to calmly ward off the animals.

"The people need to be trained to handle this matter. To protect them and to prevent them from killing the elephants," Gunariadi told AFP.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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