The Delegation of the European Union (EU) in Jakarta has adopted Eropa – a newborn elephant from the Tangkahan Conservation Response Unit in the Leuser Ecosystem – to strengthen conservation efforts and encourage community-based ecotourism.
“The naming and adoption of the elephant Eropa, born on 1 September 2015, highlights the EU’s long-term commitment to the unique Leuser Ecosystem and contribution of over € 50 million to protect and sustainably manage Aceh’s and North Sumatra’s forests,” explained Franck Viault, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Indonesia.
Earlier this year, the EU Delegation adopted young elephant Aras who monitors and protects the eastern part of the Leuser Ecosystem as part of the Aras Napal Elephant Patrol Unit (EPU). The aim of the adoption was to bring public attention to the importance of conservation and the fight against climate change.
“The adoption of baby elephant Eropa today by the EU Delegation to Indonesia will help strengthen another important aspect of the work of the Leuser Ecosystem – the conservation partnership between the Tangkahan Conservation Response Unit and local communities, who have moved from illegal logging to sustainable ecotourism. We also hope it will raise awareness among the young generation of the threat of elephant poaching,” highlighted HE Mr Vincent Guérend, Ambassador-designate of the European Union to Indonesia.
Elephant poaching for ivory and its consequences are real in Sumatra. Several elephants have been killed in Sumatra over the last months, including the much-loved elephant Yongki who was found slayed and had his tusks removed.
The Tangkahan Conservation Response Unit (CRU), which has ten elephants and a dedicated staff of 13 people, has developed a close partnership with local communities to encourage a community-based ecotourism approach towards conservation. The decision to name the baby elephant “Eropa” is in recognition of the EU’s support, as well as to emphasise the importance of tourism. To date, the majority of foreign eco-tourists that visit Tangkahan come from Europe.
“We believe that this conservation partnership has proven successful and can serve as a model for community-based ecotourism. To ensure that conservation efforts are sustainable, it is key to find a win-win solution that also helps to improve the livelihoods of local communities on the edge of the forests,” said Edi Sunard, Manager of CRU Tangkahan.
Tangkahan is located at the tip of the Leuser Ecosystem which covers 2.6 million hectares and at its core the Gunung Leuser National Park is made of mostly undisturbed tropical rainforest in the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra. Due to the presence of the Tangkahan CRU since the early of 2000s, the Leuser Ecosystem forest and wildlife near of Tangkahan have been able to be protected from illegal logging and hunting activities. Tangkahan offers an experience of many attractions like floating down the clear river, trekking in the untouched jungle, or participating in elephant bathing. Through this approach, the Tangkahan CRU has also been able to provide a local but steady and visible contribution to support conservation efforts.
Leuser’s several ecosystems are among the top 25 critical ecosystems in the world. It is the only place on earth where orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinoceros still co-exist in an area large enough to guarantee their long-term survival. The Leuser Ecosystem also absorbs large quantities of Carbon Dioxide making it a powerful modulator of regional climate and a carbon sink with a unique mitigating role against global climate change. It also ensures that millions of people have clean water supply and prevents landslides and floods.
It is estimated that 80% of Sumatra elephants’ lowland natural forest habitat has disappeared in the past 25 years and the number of Sumatra wild elephants have diminished to only 2,500 with increased conflicts between them and farming communities. As a result the Sumatra elephant, a subspecies of the Asian elephant, is now on the international list of critically endangered species.
The EU has supported nature conservation and biodiversity protection in Indonesia, ASEAN and globally to fight the adverse effects of climate change. It continues efforts with a new action on “Support to Indonesia’s climate change response” project which helps Indonesia achieve climate change response objectives on land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) in Aceh and Papua. On a regional level, the EU supports the “Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas in ASEAN” that helps conserve and manage the rich biological diversity of ASEAN in the wake of social, economic and environmental development.