The Sumatran Elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian Elephant, and native to Sumatra island of Indonesia. Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years. The species is pre-eminently threatened by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation.
In general, Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants and have the highest body point on the head. The tip of their trunk has one finger-like process. Their back is convex or level. Females are usually smaller than males, and have short or no tusks.
Sumatran elephants reach a shoulder height of between 2 and 3.2 m (6.6 and 10.5 ft), weigh between 2,000 and 4,000 kg (4,400 and 8,800 lb), and have 20 pairs of ribs. Their skin color is lighter than of maximus and indicus with least depigmentation.
The Sumatran elephant was once widespread on the island, but currently survives only in highly fragmented populations. In the mid-1980s, 44 separate populations where known, however this decreased since. In Lampung province, from 12 separate populations in the 1980s only three remained by 2003. Recent surveys in the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park indicated a population estimate of 498, while in Way Kambas National Park their numbers was estimated to 180.
A population survey conducted in 2000 estimated that only 2000 – 2700 wild elephants remain.
In 1986 the Indonesian government started establishing Elephant Training Centers intended to capture and train elephants for use in logging, patrol work, and tourism. Currently there are six provincial centres on 11 separate sites, that hold approximately 400 elephants.
The remaining population is threatened by habitat loss, poaching, and as a result of conflict with humans.
65% of Sumatran elephant deaths are because of human persecution. 30% of this human persecution is through poisoning because of fear of the animal. 83% of the Sumatran elephant's former habitat has now been turned into plantations; this means that the elephant has to learn to adapt to new habitats if it is to live.
Elephas maximus is listed on CITES Appendix I.
Sumatran elephants have been protected in Indonesia since 1931.
In 2004, the Tesso Nilo National Park has been established in Riau province to protect the Sumatran elephant's habitat. This forest is one of the last areas large enough to support a viable population of elephants.
- ^ a b c d e Choudhury, A., Lahiri Choudhury, D.K., Desai, A., Duckworth, J.W., Easa, P.S., Johnsingh, A.J.T., Fernando, P., Hedges, S., Gunawardena, M., Kurt, F., Karanth, U., Lister, A., Menon, V., Riddle, H., Rübel, A., Wikramanayake, E. (2008). "Elephas maximus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
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- ^ a b Elephant Care International: Sumatran Elephant Field Project, retrieved 7 November 2010
- ^ WWF International - Sumatran elephant species profile, retrieved 7 November 2010
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