Samarinda, E Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - The population of Kalimantan elephants continues to dwindle as a result of damage to protected forests, an environment official said.

"If the protected forests continue to be cleared away and change their function, we fear the elephants will become extinct. Therefore, we hope two district heads, whose jurisdiction cover the protected forests, will always guard them," the head of the East Kalimantan provincial environmental board, H Riza Indra Riadi, said here Saturday.

The Nunukan and Malinau district heads played a decisive role in conserving the protected forests, particularly those belonging to the Heart of Borneo, he said.

The forests, which are home to the endangered elephants, were under threat from coal mining and oil palm plantations, he added.

Riadi noted that much forested land in a number of areas in East Kalimantan has been cleared to make way for coal mining and oil palm plantations.

The population of Kalimantan elephants was estimated at 20 to 80 in 22 villages in Sebuku subdistrict, Nunukan district, he said.

Riadi added that five of the 22 villages were frequently visited by Soliter elephants. The villages are Sekikilan, Semunad, Rembalang, Salang, and Kalun Sayan.

He has asked the governments of the two districts to stop issuing operating permits to plantation and mining companies in the protected forests, including those in Malinau, Nunukan, Kutai Timur, West Kutai and Berau.(*)

Editor: Aditia Maruli

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