Rare elephants killed for ivory

2010-03-29 18:04

Jakarta - Two endangered elephants found dead on Indonesia's Sumatra island are believed to be the victims of poachers targeting the animals for their prized ivory tusks, a park official said on Monday.

Hayani Suprahman, the head of Tesso Nelo National Park in Riau province, said on Monday that the body of a 5-year-old male Sumatran elephant was discovered late on Saturday with its tusks cut off with a saw. A second elephant, a 7-year-old male, was found on Sunday about 100m away from where the first had been discovered, he said.

A preliminary investigation showed that the two elephants may have been deliberately poisoned by cyanide, he said.

"I believe that poachers are behind the elephant killings for money," Suprahman said.

Trade in ivory was banned in 1989 under a UN convention, but the black market in Indonesia pays about $2 200 per 2kg and even higher on international markets, according to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).

Samples of the two animals have been sent to a laboratory to confirm the cause of the death, Suprahman said.

Two weeks earlier, another male elephant was killed near the Bengkalis district of Riau province, and its tusks were also removed. Police are investigating, though no arrests have been made.

Only 3 000 Sumatran elephants are believed to remain in the wild, a number that dwindles each year with poaching.

Last year, a dozen elephants were killed on Sumatra, while 18 were found dead in 2008, Suprahman said. Forensic tests showed some had eaten cyanide-laced pineapples while others had been shot in the head.