By Ujang Suryadi, Member, Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park Rhino Protection Unit
Our Rhino Protection Unit in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (in Sumatra, Indonesia) spends at least 15 days per month on patrol in the forest, monitoring rhinos and other wildlife, removing snares, and catching illegal hunters, loggers and encroachers. While on patrol, we camp in the forest – we have very basic camps set up on our standard patrol routes. One night, we were staying at Camp 50. Around midnight, we woke up to a commotion and realized there was a small group of Sumatran elephants inside our camp. The group even included a baby elephant – probably around 1 -2 months old! The elephants stayed in our camp until around 3:00 am, rummaging around. We were excited to see them, but also a little nervous because we know that elephants are unpredictable, and can sometimes be aggressive – especially if they are protecting a calf. We didn’t sleep well at all that night because we had to keep an eye on the elephants. The next night, the elephants came back to our camp at just around the same time, and again stayed until around 3 am. The next day, one of my fellow RPU members and I had set up my camera with tripod and lights, to try to get photos of the elephants if they came back. We found a good position and waited for around 3 hours. Luckily, the elephants found us right around sunrise and I was able to take photos of the mother and calf without disturbing them. Around 7 am, the elephants left our camp and marched deep into the forest. After that, we didn’t see the group again.
Sumatran elephants are endangered, and Bukit Barisan Selatan is one of the most important habitats for Sumatran elephants (as well as Sumatran rhinos and Sumatran tigers, another endangered species). Poachers target elephants because of the high demand for ivory on the black market. Although we are part of the Rhino Protection Unit, we are also committed to protecting the other animals living in the national park, and especially elephants and tigers. Protecting rhinos means protecting all wildlife living in the park. We also track and monitor elephants and tigers, remove snares and traps set for these animals, and collect evidence on and arrest poachers targeting elephants and tigers. We want to preserve all of Sumatra’s unique wildlife for our children and grandchildren to see.
Translated by Inov.