Plight of injured baby elephant draws attention

Erin the elephant was found in a poacher's trap near a housing settlement in Lampung province in 2016. Its trunk had been severed and it now has to learn to eat without using its trunk.
Erin the elephant was found in a poacher's trap near a housing settlement in Lampung province in 2016. Its trunk had been severed and it now has to learn to eat without using its trunk.PHOTO: KOMPAS

The plight of Erin the baby elephant, who was found in a poacher's trap with a severed trunk, received national attention last week after its story was told online.

The Sumatran elephant was discovered in July 2016 when it was two years old, near a housing settlement in Lampung province's Susukan Baru area, within the 1,300 sq km Way Kambas National Park.

It was weak, thin and had pinworm in its intestine. The tip of its trunk was severed, probably as it struggled after falling into the trap, Kompas.com reported last Wednesday. Erin was taken to the nearby Rubini Atmawidjaja Elephant Hospital.

Actress Wulan Guritno expressed her grievance on Instagram and appealed to her 2.4 million followers to save Sumatran elephants, and donate for Erin. "So sad seeing this young elephant. Erin needs assistance when she feeds herself," Ms Wulan, 37, said in her post.

The Way Kambas National Park was home to 248 wild elephants at the last census in 2010. The park's rehabilitation centre has 66 tamed elephants, including Erin.

Dr Diah Esti Anggraini, a vet at the elephant hospital, told Kompas that Erin's physical condition was weak due to the injury. It could not keep up and had been left behind by a group of wild elephants.

Like other injured elephants left behind by their herds, it relied on its survival instincts and walked towards a settlement.

Since its rescue, Erin has been learning to eat without using its trunk. "She manoeuvres her front limbs to help pick up food or sometimes bends them to reach food," Dr Diah said.

Sumatran elephants are critically endangered. Illegal ivory trade and dwindling habitat due to deforestation have raised fears that elephants could become extinct within decades.

On Feb 12, a female Sumatran elephant aged around 20 was found dead with its tusks removed, in Way Kambas National Park, which is also home to critically endangered Sumatran rhinos and tigers.

There were five bullet wounds in its chest and head, Kompas.com also reported, citing the park's patrol officials.

This came a month after a male Sumatran elephant was found dead with its tusks removed in a protected forest in south Sumatra.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 25, 2018, with the headline 'Plight of injured baby elephant draws attention'. Print Edition | Subscribe