Changing Planet

Conservation Focus: Protecting the Critically Endangered Sumatran Elephant


By WCS Indonesia / Photos by Paul Hilton 

While many rightly voice concern over the plight of African elephants that are undergoing a precipitous decline in number, Asian elephants are facing a catastrophic, yet less well documented decline of their own.

The photographs on this page bear witness to the work of multiple conservation agencies working to save the Critically Endangered Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) — one of three subspecies of Asian elephants — in Way Kambas National Park and the Gunung Leuser National Park. WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) has been working in these two areas since 2000 and 2008, respectively.

These slideshow images by Paul Hilton, taken in 2016 for WCS, illustrate the multitude of challenges faced in conserving the Sumatran elephant. These include the conversion of forest habitat to oil palm plantations, degradation of forest habitat by illegal logging, conflicts with farmers through crop-raiding, and being illegally hunted for their ivory tusks. While the situation is dire, the camera’s lens also finds hope in the efforts of WCS, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, field veterinarians, partnering NGO’s, and others working to safeguard a future for the Sumatran elephant.

WCS’s wildlife conservation work in Sumatra is supported by: the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Multinational Species Conservation FundsLiz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg FoundationPantheraElephant FamilyAZA Tiger Species Survival Plan’s Tiger Conservation Campaign; the UK Government’s IWT Challenge FundUSAID LESTARI Project; and Fondation Segré.

WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media