Trained elephants are helping people battle the devastating forest fires in Indonesia

PictureSlash-and-burn farming practices during a prolonged dry season are primarily the cause for many of the raging fires spreading across Indonesia. Forestry officials are combating the country’s devastating forest fire problem by using trained elephants to assist in their efforts. A total of 23 highly trained elephants from the Conservation and Natural Resources Agency are being used to carry water pumps, firefighter crews and other necessary equipment to remote places as they patrol the heavily burned forests throughout the Riau province of Indonesia.

Areas the elephants are utilized most are in the burned out peat lands of the wildlife reserve, which often have smoldering fires that can reignite if not immediately dealt with. They maneuver around areas of burnt trees to ensure the small fires beneath the peat-rich land have been completely put out. This terrain is extremely difficult to navigate through, making these elephants a very reliable mode of transportation where most vehicles cannot go.

Nunu Anugrah, head of Conservation and Natural Resources Agency of South Sumatra province told Reuters,
“We used them to help the mobilization of Manggala Agni’s (Forest Fire Fighter) equipment to reach the hot spots. At this point, environmentalist can only speculate on the amount of damage to Indonesian wildlife the fires have caused. Palm oil farmers are primarily the cause for these fires, who practice the slash-and-burn farming method. According to local reports, thousands of hectares of wildlife reserve land have been destroyed and turned into palm oil plantations.

On top of the environmental impacts from the fires, hundreds of thousands of people throughout Southeast Asia have become sick with respiratory infections caused by the smokey haze that has affected the air quality.

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