Yongki, a tame “critically endangered” Sumatran elephant, was found dead in Bukit Barisan Selatan national park on Friday in a pool of his own blood. His blue tongue and the bloodied stumps where his three-meter ivory tusks once were indicated that the much-loved elephant had most likely been poisoned for his ivory.
Nazaruddin, the head of the Indonesian Mahout (meaning elephant keepers) Forum, told AFP that the keepers were “very shaken” at the grisly discovery of Yongki’s lifeless body. Not only was the elephant beloved among park rangers and visitors alike, but he himself had been dubbed a park ranger. For the majority of his 35 years, Yongki trudged alongside other park rangers and became a member of the conservation response unit — the group responsible for conserving and protecting the natural habitat of the national park.
“We are mourning the lost [sic] of an elephant who has been helping us in handling conflicts and helping forest rangers patrol the forest, and he was a good elephant.”
Before the beautiful elephant was poisoned for his ivory, Yongki was often tasked with “reducing tensions” with other elephants, reports Raw Story, a practice in which tame elephants stopped wild elephants from rampaging villages. The tame elephants, like Yongki, would drive the wild ones back into the jungle, which not only saved the villages, but also the wild elephants from farmers who were known to extract vengeance on the beasts caught foraging on their lands. He was also often on hand with other park rangers looking for illegal logging and ivory poachers.
Sadly, Yongki’s park ranger status didn’t save the 3.3-ton endangered elephant. Test results performed on his corpse show that Yongki was, in fact, poisoned, and his ivory tusks had been cut off with a chainsaw. Though no arrests have been made in Yongki’s death yet, a social media firestorm — beginning with the hashtag #RIPYongki, along with gruesome pictures of Yongki’s body — has the internet world raging and demanding someone be held responsible for the tame elephant’s death.
i wanna find the person that poisoned the endangered elephant Yongki and push them into a volcano #RIPYongki
— ta keo (@hjpotel) September 22, 2015
— FONDATION B. BARDOT (@FBB_World) September 22, 2015
Social media users aren’t the only ones who are calling for swift action to be taken against Yongki’s killers. Anwar Purwoto, Director of Sumatra and Borneo of WWF Indonesia, says that something needs to be done not only for Yongki but for all endangered elephants being killed for their ivory.
“Comprehensive investigation effort is required by the authorities to identify and seize the killer. It’s also important to take action to avoid another incident in the future.”
Poisoning elephants like Yongki is a common practice in Sumatra where, according to the Washington Post, one set of ivory tusks can earn poachers a full year’s salary. Last year, reports the Post, seven elephants were poisoned in a single day alone.
[Image Credit: CNN]