Monday, March 5, 2012

Scientists say elephants seriously endangered


One of the biggest threats to the life of elephants is the conflict between elephants and local residents. As the population rapidly increases, people tend to encroach into the habitat areas which were previously the territory of elephants and other wild animals.

The conflict

Prior to 2003, elephants sometimes appeared in Tan Phu district of Dong Nai province and destroyed farm produce in the locality. In 2008, an elephant regularly entered the residential areas and destroyed the crops. In 2009, 57 households in four hamlets complained that their crops were damaged by elephants.

No death toll has been reported so far, but this may happen in the future, because people used many strong measures to drive the elephants away. They threw small gas tanks at elephants for explosions, threw fire at elephants, or used strong headlights or horns.

The treatment way applied by people has made the conflict between men and elephants more serious.

The number of elephants in Dong Nai province has decreased dramatically as the result of the hunting. Nine elephants have died in Dong Nai since 2009, for many reasons.

Alarm bell rung over Dak Lak elephants

Dak Lak province is considered the land of elephants, but the herd of elephants in the province has decreased rapidly. Man is the chief culprit behind the decrease.

The Decree No. 32 issued in 2006 puts elephants into the IB group, i.e. that the State prohibits people to exploit and use for commercial purposes. However, it is now quite easy to seek to buy some tail feathers of elephants, or some toys made of tusk. Most of the travelers to the Ban Don tourism site or Lak site want to buy tail feathers, because they believe that the feathers would bring good luck.

People try to take every chance to kill elephants to get tusks, legs and feathers for sale. Many elephants were shot to death recently, which showed the callousness of people towards the friendly animal. Most of the 10 elephants died since 2009 were killed.

Another important reason which has led to the sharp decrease of the number of elephants in Dak Lak is that all elephants here have “stable jobs” at tourism sites. Therefore, in the last 20 years, the elephants cannot reproduce, including the ones at the mature age.

Dang Van Long, the man who owns four male and five female elephants in Lak district, said that he has been trying every way to help elephants reproduce since 2009, but he has failed.

Dr Bao Huy from the Tay Nguyen University has pointed out that the elephant breeding for tourism purpose has degraded their fertility. “If we don’t take actions right now, Dak Lak elephants would get extinct in 20 more years,” he warned.

Wild elephants forced into the corner

According to the Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center, there are only 80-110 individual elephants left in the wild, including 4-5 individuals living the area put under the management of the Chu Pah forestry company, 20 individuals living in the area put under the management of Ya H’Mo and Ya Lop, and the others in the Yok Don National Park.

The living environment for elephants has been narrowed alarmingly in recently. Wild elephants move and seek food within large areas. Meanwhile, the total area safe for them has reduced to 160,000 hectares – the minimum area for elephants to live, while the area has been narrowed continuously.

Wild elephants nowadays get more furious to people, and they do not hesitate to face people, which shows that the conflict between men and elephants has more serious, according to Dr Cao Thi Ly, a member of the research team for the project on Dak Lak elephant conservation. In 2011 alone, 10 wild elephants in Dak Lak died.