Bali’s elephants starved to death from COVID-19, World News
The Bali Elephant Camp (BEC) has left more than a dozen elephants to starve to death, and staff without pay as COVID-19 affected ticket sales. BEC is a safari-style park, half an hour’s drive north of Ubud, the cultural capital of the Indonesian island.
In 2005, BEC joined a wildlife conservation program run by the Ministry of Forestry that delegates care for critically endangered Sumatran elephants to private zoos and safari parks in Indonesia.
According to a 2007 study by the World Wildlife Fund, only 2,400 Sumatran elephants remained in the wild.
Today, that number is believed to have halved due to poaching for ivory, human-elephant conflict and deforestation.
The birth of three baby elephants in the past 15 years suggests the BEC was exceeding its animal welfare requirements. “Our conservation friends say we have some of the healthiest, happiest elephants they’ve ever seen!” read the official site.
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Femke Den Haas, a Dutch veterinarian who has worked for wildlife protection in Indonesia for 20 years, told Al Jazeera that a person cannot imagine a skinny elephant until they see one.
“They are big animals and you are not supposed to see their bones. But that’s what they were – just skin and bones,” he was quoted by Al Jazeera.
Haas visited the camp as a partner of Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam Bali (BKSDA). It is the government body that oversees the safari parks and zoos that have adopted Sumatran elephants.
Three of BEC’s 14 elephants were adopted by an unidentified zoo on the neighboring island of Java. The remaining 11 were moved to Tasta Wildlife Park, a new zoo that opened in June in Tabanan Regency.
When Al Jazeera visited Tasta Wildlife Park in September, all 11 animals had been successfully rehabilitated and had gained weight.
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Agus Budi Santosa, director of BKSDA, said many industries in Bali have collapsed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Santosa was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying, “But the impact on small businesses like Bali Elephant Camp has been particularly severe. (When tourism stopped), they were no longer able to cover operational costs, especially the cost of feeding the elephants. The government had to help them by paying for food and electricity.
When confronted, BEC representatives were not available to answer Al Jazeera’s questions about elephants. In addition, their phone numbers have been disconnected.