Thu, 12 Feb 2004

New calf brings hope to Sumatran elephants

ID Nugroho, The Jakarta Post, Surabaya

Staff members of the Safari National Park II in Prigen, East Java are rejoicing in the birth of a male Sumatran elephant (Elephas Maximus) calf.

The calf was born at 9:45 a.m. on Monday to bull Subaru and cow Rahayu. He weighs 75 kilograms, and is 120 centimeters long and 90 centimeters tall. While this was the fifth elephant calf to be born in the park since 1997, executive director Jansen Manansang said that the birth process amazed him.

Rahayu -- who was evacuated from the troubled Sampit area in Central Kalimantan a few years ago -- had a relatively smooth labor, which started with the first contractions at 4:30 a.m. on Monday. A team from the Safari National Park I in Cisarua, Bogor, monitored the birth process. As the sun rose, the cow's waters broke and the calf was born ten minutes later, with his head and front legs first. But Rahayu still has a long struggle ahead of her as calf usually breast-feed for at least 20 months. As most cows are active for 16 to 18 hours a day, 70 to 90 percent of Rahayu's time will now be spent eating. She must consume 300 kilograms of moist food daily in order to maintain a steady flow of milk.

Based on Government Regulation No. 7/1999, Sumatran elephants are protected animals.

Data recorded in 2000 in Sumatra, indicates that in Mount Leuser and Kerinci Seblat National Parks at that time there were only 2,400 to 2,450 elephants.

Considering the deforestation of areas of Sumatra and the continued hunting of elephants, it is likely that the Sumatran elephant population has since dropped.

Elephants live for as long as 100 years. Every herd of elephants keeps within a home range of 165 sq. km. for primary jungles, and 60 sq. km. for secondary jungles.

In order to save the elephants from extinction, the government has run seminars and established an Elephant Training Center in Way Kambas, Lampung.

"Another way is by breeding," said Jansen, who, in acknowledging that Sumatran elephants face extinction, has even more reason to celebrate the birth of the calf.