Extinction of sumatran elephant

April 10, 2023, 12:25 p.m.

The Sumatran Elephant is the smallest subspecies of Asian Elephant, and is sadly critically endangered.

The Sumatran Elephant is the smallest subspecies, but the largest mammal existing on the island of Sumatra. They can weigh up to 5 tonnes and reach 9ft in height.

A small subspecies of Asian elephant found only in the lowland forests of Sumatra, the Sumatran elephant went from endangered to critically endangered in 2011 after losing over 80% of its habitat within 20 years. At the time, the profound loss represented one of the most rapid deforestation rates in the entire Asian elephant range, which spans throughout the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

With a stranger appearance to their African cousins, the Sumatran Elephant is almost completely bald with small rounded ears. Female Sumatran Elephants rarely have tusks, but the females that do keep them hidden away from sight until they open their mouths.

At least 85% of their habitats are located outside of protected areas. The wild Sumatran elephant population less than 1,500 individuals.

Not only do Sumatran elephants share habitats with equally rare species of tigers, rhinos, and orangutans, their feeding habits also disperse seeds and contribute greatly to the overall health of their ecosystems. If elephants were to be eliminated or prevented from roaming the broad ecosystems of Sumatra, these ecosystems would eventually become less diverse and may even collapse due to over-simplified impoverishment—we risk losing both the majestic subspecies itself and the fragile ecosystems in which it once thrived.

Poaching is a problem in Sumatra, most notably from agriculturists who own or are setting up palm oil plantations. This illegal act of killing occurs through poisoning, electrocution and trap methods.

The main factors threatening Sumatran elephants are interconnected, with deforestation at the forefront. Due to the rapid deforestation rates in Sumatra driving elephants into human territories and agricultural lands, human-wildlife conflicts arise and result in the hunting and killing of elephants.

Loss of forest cover also makes elephants more vulnerable to poaching and further fragments populations who are unable to breed or forage successfully as a result.

What do you think should be done today to ensure the survival of a unique elephant that participates in the preservation of a fragile ecosystem?

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