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APP Wildlife Warrior: Sumatran Elephants, The Sociable Animals with Strong Family Bonds

What comes to mind when you talk about elephants? Most of us know elephant is a large animal whose population continues to decline. In fact, the Sumatran elephant is the largest mammal in Indonesia, weighing up to five tons. The population is decreasing due to the loss of habitat and conflicts between humans and animals that often occur. Let's get to know more about the Sumatran elephant from Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) Sinar Mas conservation team.

Imam Syafii is a Forest Protection Head who works in the Sumatran Elephant conservation team in Giam Siak Kecil area, Riau. Imam has been working in the conservation division of APP Sinar Mas around 30 years. He and his team are responsible for ensuring the elephant's habitat is maintained and mitigate conflicts between humans and wildlife.

According to Imam, working in conservation is indeed full of challenges, but behind it there is a noble goal where he can directly contribute in maintaining the balance of nature through conserving this Sumatran Elephant. "One of the roles of elephants is because they become instrumental in seed dispersal. They eat plant seeds and fruits, they pass see through the digestive system and then drop them off in dung, the deposited seeds are sown and allow to make diverse vegetation grow in the forest," explained Imam.

Many amusing things about elephants he found out after decades of working in the conservation field. From his observations with the team, here are some unique facts about Elephants:
•    Elephants are animals that live in groups. One herd of elephants contains approximately 5-6 individuals and is led by a female elephant;
•    Each elephant needs up to about 100kg of food per day;
•    Elephants have very strong family bonds and are one of the animals that have the best upbringing. Mother elephants carry their cubs for up to 22 months and nurture their cubs until they are about 18 months old;
•    Elephants live in the same home range together with their groups;
•    Elephants will inherit paths that are used permanently for foraging and breeding. Each elephant calf will be carried on a journey by its mother and the wandering path will be remembered by the calf until it grows up;
•    In addition to breastfeeding and taking their cubs to wander, the mother elephant will teach her cubs to protect themselves from predators, find safe paths and how to navigate steep embankments*, and teach the elephant calves to choose plants that can become staple foods.

Imam said that people’s perceptions of elephants are still very diverse. There are groups of people who consider elephants are respected animals, but not a few also consider elephants to be pests. “Our role is to raise community awareness that elephants are now categorized as endangered animals. Through our conservation program, we conduct training to help people understand and realize that elephant has a significant role in our ecosystem and to ensure a peaceful coexistence between humans and wildlife sharing the same landscape,” he added.

APP Sinar Mas, through its conservation team, remains committed in wildlife protection and conservation. One of the efforts to conserve Sumatran elephants in the Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) area has produced good results, where there are around six to seven elephant herds or approximately 120-140 individual elephants that can live around the concession areas. Another strategy in OKI is the establishment of corridors for protected areas, as well as land conversion management so that elephants can continue to pass in their respective paths and have sufficient food stocks by maintaining plant growth and yield.

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