Wild elephants in Bengkulu province are under threat of extinction because illegal loggers and land squatters have begun to operate in areas close to the Seblat Elephant Training Center in North Bengkulu district, a local nature conservation official said as reported by Antara newswire on Saturday.
If the illegal activities were not stopped soon, the forest corridor linking the Elephant Training Center with the Kerinci Seblat National Park would be breached and the habitat of elephants under the center`s care destroyed, Andi Basral, head of Bengkulu`s Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), said on Friday through Aswan Bangun, coordinator of the Seblat Elephants Training Center.
“We can do little to overcome the illegal activities because of lack of support from the local law-enforcing agencies,” Bangun said.
The BKSDA had the authority to act against the illegal loggers and squatters but the agency`s personnel were limited in number and could therefore not achieve much, he added.
Bangun said about 1,500 heactares of the 6,865-hectare forest-covered zone belonging to the Seblat Elephant Training Center were now in seriously damaged condition because of the illegal activities.
The Seblat Elephant Training Center could only be saved if the local administration, including law-enforcing agencies, took part in efforts to protect the center and the elephants` habitat, Bangun said.
In the past, he said, he had asked for and received assistance from the local forestry service and police to drive away the illegal loggers and squatters but it was only temporary.
“When they (illegal loggers and squatters) get wind of an imminent joint operation against them, they cease their activities but as soon as the officers have gone, they are at it again,” he said.
If the illegal activities were not halted, the elephants` habitat would gradually disappear
and leave the protected animals nowhere to live.
Bangun said he believed 85 percent of Bengkulu`s wild elephant population was living outside the center and the Kerinci Seblat National Park but did not know exactly how many wild elephants there were in Bengkulu province.