critically endangered elephants left to starve as park hit by pandemic - Critically endangered elephants ‘left to starve’ as park hit by pandemic

An elephant park has been accused of leaving more than a dozen of the animals to starve after it was forced to close during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Bali Elephant Camp (BEC) was part of a wildlife conservation programme in 2005 which saw it give several critically endangered Sumatran elephants a home in a bid to help stabilise the population.

In exchange, the safari-style park was allowed to sell hugely profitable elephant tourism services such as elephant rides, which it charged at a rate of $230 for two people for half an hour.

However, photographs allegedly taken at the park in May and shared with Al Jazeera appeared to show several severely malnourished elephants.

“You cannot imagine a skinny elephant until you see one,” Femke Den Haas, a veterinarian from the Netherlands, told the broadcaster.

“They are big animals and you’re not meant to see their bones. But that’s what they were – just skin and bones.”

Ms Hass visited the park as a partner of BKSDA (Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam Bali), the government body that supervises safari parks and zoos on the island that have adopted Sumatran elephants.

Dr Agus Budi Santosa, director of BKSDA, acknowledged the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic had been “especially severe” on small companies like BEC, which had reportedly been unable to cover operational costs, including the cost of feeding the elephants.

According to Al Jazeera, the BEC in July said it was struggling to meet its monthly $1,400 operational costs and had not received any financial support from BKSDA or the Ministry of Forestry, which runs the wildlife conservation programme.

However Ms Hass, who claimed staff were also left without pay, argued it was not that expensive to take care of elephants, which she estimated cost $200 a month to feed.

“You can’t as a company say there are no more visitors so I am not taking care of the elephants anymore,” she told Al Jazeera.

“That is what has happened and it is really disgusting because these elephants have given them profits for 15 years.”

The BEC was reportedly given two months to find new investors and turn the business around, but the government seized the park’s 14 elephants when it failed to do so.

Three of the elephants are said to have been adopted by a zoo on the neighbouring island of Java, while the remaining 11 were relocated to the new Tasta Wildlife Park in Tabanan Regency, southern Bali.

The Independent has contacted Bali Elephant Camp for comment.