Villagers Threaten to Poison Elephants

JAKARTA ~ Villagers in Aceh threatened this week to poison rare wild elephants that are destroying their palm oil plantations in search of food.

“The residents are so angry and have said they will put poison around the plantation areas to kill the elephants unless officials take quick action,” said Jambo Dalem village chief Teungku Baili.

He said he had warned officials in Trumon Timur district of Sumatra’s Aceh province, but nothing had been done to protect the plantations.

A herd of eight elephants grazed through the villagers’ plantations twice last week, apparently lured to the rows of palm fruit after their natural habitat was wiped out to make way for the lucrative crop.

“I’m afraid that another attack on their plantations will push villagers to launch their plan” to poison the animals, the village chief said.

“People here eagerly planted palm oil as it brings more profits, but it’s all been easily destroyed by elephants.”

The elephants have been destroying plantations since 2000 but the problem has become worse over the past two months, he said.

Conflicts between wild animals and humans have long been on the rise in Sumatra, where tropical jungles have been almost completely wiped out except on mountain slopes.

Experts say palm oil plantations offer the pachyderms a more attractive source of food than can be found in the forest.

The population of Sumatran elephants was estimated at between 2,400 and 2,800 last year, a decrease of 35 percent from 1992, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

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