Indonesia launches probe into series of elephant deaths
Jakarta, June 21 (Xinhua-ANI): The Indonesian Forestry Ministry has launched a probe into the series of 12 elephant deaths in Sumatra since March, the Jakarta globe quoting an official reported here on Thursday.
"Our strong suspicion is that those elephants that died in East Aceh and the Tesso Nilo National Park [in Riau] were poisoned,but we do not yet know what the motive could be," Novianto Bambang, the ministry's director for conservation and biodiversity said on Wednesday.
The director said that a team had been deployed to Aceh and Riau to investigate the deaths.
"So far, we still have to await the results of a forensic laboratory examination in Medan in relation to the type of toxin, to study the feces and what other things they carried," he said.
The statement came after a report from Petani village in Mandau, Bengkalis said another elephant was found dead in Riau. Local villagers said the carcass, without its tusks, was found already in an advanced stage of decomposition on Wednesday.
Novianto cautioned that even though the tusks of the dead elephants were missing, it did not necessarily mean that the killings were for the ivory.
"It can also be that the tusks were cut intentionally to create the image that they were done by elephant tusk hunters, or they were poisoned because they are considered pests. It is not certain that they were killed for their tusks only," he said.
The number of Sumatran elephants in the wild has dropped dramatically in the past four years. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has said the species is now "critically endangered," or one step away from extinction.
There are an estimated 2,400 to 2,800 elephants remaining in the wild, down from the 3,000 to 5,000 reported in 2007. (Xinhua-ANI)
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