Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranus) are one of four extant sub-species of Asian elephant. They play a critical role in healthy forest ecosystems by acting as seed dispersers. They are listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered; owing to the fact they have lost half their habitat in only one generation and in the same time their population has plummeted by 80%. This is due to habitat loss and human-elephant conflict (HEC) as well as continued poaching for ivory and more recently, skin. "Sumatra has experienced one of the highest rates of deforestation within the Asian elephant’s range, which has resulted in local extinctions of elephants in many areas" (WWF). The Sumatran elephant population is severely fragmented owing to extensive fragmentation in their preferred lowland habitat and their long-term conservation strategy must include not only securing viable habitat but also community involvement in mitigating HEC. This is where Sumatran Ranger Project plays an important role in North Sumatra. By responding to every incident of HEC within the forest edge communities we patrol, and closely monitoring the movements of the herd, this ensures community well-being and safety of the elephants.
As they continue to lose their range, elephants are forced into smaller fragments of forest and combined with increasing human populations and expanding agriculture they compete for space that is increasingly rare and often raid crops which are a nutritious and easy meal. According to the IUCN manual on HEC, HEC is defined as "any human-elephant interaction which results in negative effects on human social, economic or cultural life, on elephant conservation or on the environment". Elephants are one of the biggest threats to forest edge community agriculture due to the extent and rapidity at which they damage crops which equates to significant loss of livelihood. There is often associated damage to dwellings and injury or loss of life caused by HEC. Sumatran elephants are often subject to retaliatory killing or injury due to the serious impact loss of cash crops has on the economics and socio-economics of individuals and communities. There are as few as 1000 Sumatran elephants left on Earth.