Erin the elephant's plight casts spotlight on conservation in Indonesia

The Sumatran elephant, Erin, was discovered in July 2016 when she was 2 years old, near a housing settlement in Lampung province. Her trunk was severed about 10cm from the distal edge, an injury likely sustained when she fell into a trap. PHOTO: RONY ARIYANTO NUGROHO/ KOMPAS

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

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

She was weak, thin and had pinworm in her intestine. Her trunk was severed about 10cm from the distal edge, an injury likely sustained when she fell into the trap, reported on Wednesday (March 21).

Erin was taken to the nearby Rubini Atmawidjaja Elephant Hospital.

Actress Wulan Guritno expressed her grievance on Instagram account 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," Wulan said in her post.

The Way Kambas national park housed 248 wild elephants, as per 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. She had been left behind by a group of wild elephants and could not keep up.

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

Since her rescue, Erin has been learning to eat without using her 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 her tusks removed, in Way Kambas national park, which is also home to critically endangered Sumatran rhinos and tigers. There were five bullet wounds in her chest and head, 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.

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