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Conservation Focus: Protecting the Critically Endangered Sumatran Elephant


By WCS Indonesia / Photos by Paul Hilton 

While many rightly voice concern over the plight of African elephants that are undergoing a precipitous decline in number, Asian elephants are facing a catastrophic, yet less well documented decline of their own.

The photographs on this page bear witness to the work of multiple conservation agencies working to save the Critically Endangered Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) — one of three subspecies of Asian elephants — in Way Kambas National Park and the Gunung Leuser National Park. WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) has been working in these two areas since 2000 and 2008, respectively.

These slideshow images by Paul Hilton, taken in 2016 for WCS, illustrate the multitude of challenges faced in conserving the Sumatran elephant. These include the conversion of forest habitat to oil palm plantations, degradation of forest habitat by illegal logging, conflicts with farmers through crop-raiding, and being illegally hunted for their ivory tusks. While the situation is dire, the camera’s lens also finds hope in the efforts of WCS, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, field veterinarians, partnering NGO’s, and others working to safeguard a future for the Sumatran elephant.

WCS’s wildlife conservation work in Sumatra is supported by: the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Multinational Species Conservation FundsLiz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg FoundationPantheraElephant FamilyAZA Tiger Species Survival Plan’s Tiger Conservation Campaign; the UK Government’s IWT Challenge FundUSAID LESTARI Project; and Fondation Segré.