Baby Elephant Abandoned By Herd, Rescuers Amputate Half of Trunk After Caught in Trap

Rescuers in Indonesia amputated half of a baby elephant's trunk after finding the 1-year-old female caught in a snare trap and seemingly abandoned by her herd, according to authorities. Officials believe that the trap was set by poachers on Indonesia's Sumatra island who target the endangered species for profit, the Associated Press reported.

The baby elephant is part of a group of about 700 wild Sumatran elephants left on the Indonesian island. When she was discovered in Alue Meuraksa, a village in the Aceh Jaya district, she was very weak and her nearly severed trunk still had a snare stuck in it, said Agus Arianto, the head of the Aceh province's conservation agency.

"This obviously was intended to poach endangered animals to earn money," Arianto said in a statement. "We will cooperate with law enforcement agencies in an investigation."

The elephant appeared to have been abandoned by her herd because of her worsening condition after being trapped, Arianto said. The partial amputation on Monday was a lifesaving measure by wildlife officials, he added.

Elephants are primarily targeted by poachers for their ivory tusks, a type of elongated tooth essential to the animals' survival, according to the International Anti-Poaching Foundation. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that about 20,000 elephants are illegally killed for their tusks every year.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Baby Elephant's Trunk Amputated
Rescuers in Indonesia amputated half of a baby elephant’s trunk after finding the 1-year-old female caught in a snare trap and abandoned by her herd. Above, a Sumatran elephant calf that lost half of its trunk is treated at an elephant conservation center in Saree, Aceh Besar, Indonesia, on November 15, 2021. Munandar/AP Photo

Conservationists say that the coronavirus pandemic has led to increased poaching in Sumatra as villagers turn to hunting for economic reasons.

In July, an elephant was found without its head at a palm plantation in East Aceh. Police arrested a suspected poacher along with four people accused of buying ivory from the dead animal. Their trials are still ongoing since last month. They face up to five years in prison and a fine of 100 million rupiah ($7,000) if found guilty.

The number of Sumatran elephants that have died as a result of being snared and poisoning has reached 25 in the past nine years in East Aceh district alone, Arianto said.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, has raised the status of the Sumatran elephant from endangered to critically endangered in its 2012 Red List, mostly because of a significant drop in the population as indicated by the loss of over 69 percent of its potential habitat in the last 25 years—the equivalent of one generation.

Indonesian forestry and environment ministry's data showed the Sumatran elephant population has shrunk from 1,300 in 2014 to 693, down nearly 50 percent in the past seven years.

Sumatran elephants are a subspecies of the Asian elephant, one of two species of the large mammal in the world.

Elephant Amputee
The baby elephant on Indonesia's Sumatra island had half of her trunk almost severed after being caught in what authorities alleged Monday was a trap set by poachers who prey on the endangered species. Above, a Sumatran elephant calf that lost half of its trunk is treated at an elephant conservation center in Saree, Aceh Besar, Indonesia, on November 15, 2021. Munandar/AP Photo