Conservation body backs plan to bring in elephants

The Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) has approved of Bali tourism parks’ plan to truck in more elephants as part of efforts to draw more visitors, following the provincial administration’s rejection of the idea.

BKSDA Bali head Istanto said the request by the parks to bring over Sumatran elephants would need initial approval from the Forestry Ministry and the Indonesian Institute of the Sciences (LIPI).

He added the final approval would come from the local BKSDA.

Approval will depend heavily on the number of animals requested, as the move is subject to prevailing restrictions from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES.

The restrictions, reviewed regularly, are aimed at ensuring the trade in wild animals does not threaten their survival.

“The provincial administration has no authority to reject the tourism parks’ request to bring in more elephants,” Istanto said. “That’s the authority of the BKSDA.”

Four parks in Bali requested more Sumatran elephants from the Way Kambas National Park in Lampung, during a meeting earlier this month on wildlife.

The parks all agree the addition of elephants would boost visitor numbers to Bali, particularly if the pachyderms were used to give rides.

The Taro Elephant and Safari Park, and the Bali Zoo Park, both located in Gianyar regency, had requested an additional 10 and 14 elephants respectively.

The Kasiana Park in Badung regency has asked for 15 more elephants, while the Bakas Zoo in Klungkung regency is seeking 20 more elephants.

Bali’s current elephant population in 93 — 32 at Taro, 18 at Kasiana and 10 at Bakas.

Thirty-three others are housed at the Bali Safari and Marine Park.

The request has met with opposition from the provincial administration.

Bali Forestry Agency deputy head Made Gunaja said the island did not need any more elephants, as it could give rise to human-animal conflicts.

Provincial secretary Nyoman Yasa concurred, saying the governor had previously made it clear that the elephant population on Bali should be capped.

The BKSDA maintains the elephants proposed for used as attractions are domesticated, and thus would not encroach on human settlements.

“We don’t think there’ll be any conflict between the elephants and humans, because these elephants aren’t wild,” Istanto said.

“They’ve been domesticated. Besides, the parks all have qualified animal trainers.”

He added that based on the BKSDA’s studies, Bali could still accommodate another 59 elephants over the next 25 years.

“The 59 elephants requested by the parks would obviously be brought over in phases, not all at the same time,” he said.

“Therefore there should be no problem to bringing them here.”

The Way Kambas National Park is home to an estimated 200 wild elephants and has 61 domesticated elephants at its training center.

Sumatran elephants are classified by CITES as extremely endangered, with less than 3,000 believed to still be living in the wild.

Their greatest threat is the loss of their natural habitat due to human encroachment.