Sumatran Elephant X IEF charity

By Cecily Morgan

The thought of someone riding an elephant through Sumatran forests may seem like something from The Jungle Book, but the magical work that the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) does is better than any film. Although a patrol unit may not be the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of elephants, in the Indonesian island of Sumatra, elephant patrols are protecting Sumatran elephants and local people alike thanks to the IEF.

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Sumatra is home to several critically endangered species, including the Sumatran elephant, whose population has decreased by at least 80% over the past 75 years, leaving only around 2000 of them in existence on the island. This steep decline in population is mainly attributed to human-elephant conflict. The protected environments of the Sumatran elephants are adjacent to human communities and farms, and with a tendency to devour farmers’ crops when they’re feeling peckish, these elephants aren’t exactly the ideal neighbours.

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In an effort to tackle this problem and prevent any further population decrease, the IEF launched the Conservation Response Unit (CRU) program in the early 2000s. These units consist of rescue elephants as well as forest rangers and mahouts (a term used in southern Asia meaning “elephant-rider” or “elephant-keeper”) who are trained experts in elephant care and conservation. Patrolling the borders of the protected environments, the CRUs herd wild Sumatran elephants away from civilisation, prevent poaching, and monitor wildlife activity, all in a day’s work.

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Not only do these patrols protect the elephants, they foster a positive image of the beautiful creatures amongst the local people. Instead of viewing them as crop-destroying enemies, the CRUs encourage the locals to consider them as allies in the protection of the land, giving the beautiful Sumatran elephants a well-deserved spot in the hearts of many Sumatran people.

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After the first CRU, which was launched in a northern region of Sumatra, proved successful, IEF expanded the project to Way Kambas National Park, a national park which covers 1,300 square kilometres in the Lampung province, in the southern tip of the island. The elephants in CRU camps are cared for adoringly by their mahouts and Critically Endangered Socks helps fund this care. Each time someone purchases a pair of our lovely Elephant socks, we work with the charity to provide two days of care to all elephants in the Way Kambas National Park. So, as well as nailing the millennial pink trend, these socks help protect and care for a beautiful critically endangered species.