Indonesia arrests five in decapitated elephant case

BANDA ACEH (AFP) – Five suspected poachers have been arrested over the beheading of an endangered Sumatran elephant, the Indonesian authorities said on Tuesday (Aug 17), as the South-east Asian archipelago’s battle with wildlife crime continues.

Police in Aceh, on the tip of Sumatra island, said they nabbed the suspects on Monday after a month-long investigation and were still searching for a sixth poacher.

The 12-year-old male elephant’s rotting carcass was discovered with its head and tusks missing at a oil palm plantation in July.

An autopsy found that the animal had also been poisoned, the authorities said.

One of the arrested suspects killed and then decapitated the elephant, and his accomplices tried to sell pieces of its valuable tusks, Aceh police spokesman Winardy said.

“We are still looking for a sixth suspect, who remains at large,” said the official who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name.

The suspects could face up to 10 years behind bars if convicted under Indonesia’s conservation law, he added.

Rampant deforestation has reduced the critically endangered elephants’ natural habitat and brought them into increasing conflict with humans, while their tusks are prized in the illegal wildlife trade.

There have been several elephant poisoning cases in recent years, including one in 2019 when a Sumatran elephant was found decapitated with its tusks ripped off.

Aceh’s conservation agency estimated that the region has as few as 500 Sumatran elephants left in the wild.

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