Published on: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Announcing this at a press conference held at Sabah Wildlife Department here Tuesday, State Wildlife Director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun will officiate at the opening of this sanctuary to be known as Borneo Elephant Sanctuary (BES).
He said the sanctuary is designed specifically for rescued elephants that have been injured due to human and elephant conflict as well as to raise orphaned elephants.
"At this sanctuary the rescued elephants/orphaned baby elephants will be cared for and whenever possible to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. BES will also become the central hub for elephant conservation and awareness for the general public and visitors to this place," he said.
He said the idea of developing BES began as early as 2000 during the late Datuk Patrick @ Mahadi Andau's tenure as Sabah Wildlife Director.
The vision was further continued by Sabah Wildlife Department until this moment of time, said Dr Ambu, who is also the Honorary Secretary of Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT), a state-mandated non-government organisation assisting the Sabah Wildlife Department in the development of the Borneo elephant programme.
"We are sincerely grateful to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council for being the major and prime fund-raiser for the mega conservation project and sharing Sabah Wildlife Department's vision in wildlife conservation. MPOC has pledged RM5.2million for the development of BES from its Malaysian Palm Oil Conservation Fund and we anticipate additional funding for this once operational from the Malaysian palm oil industry," he said.
Dr Ambu said they are also equally indebted to BCT of Japan and her partners namely Asahikawa City Municipal Government, Asahiyama Zoo, Saraya Corporation, Hunting World Japan, Tokio Marine Insurance Corporation, Kirin Beverage Corporation, Taisei Construction Corporation, Asta Corporation, IA Research Corporation, NTT Data Corporation, Teijin Corporation and Yusen Logistics Corporation, for covering the construction cost of the Phase 1 of BES amounting to RM1.6mil.
"We would continue to work with our Japanese friends who have been sincerely concerned about the plight of the Borneo Elephant in Sabah and have been tirelessly fundraising for the BES programme in Japan," he said.
BCT Japan Chairman, Dr Toshinori Tsubouchi, said BCT Japan was established to support Sabah Wildlife Department and BCT in achieving the mission to develop the BES.
He said BCT Japan via Sabah Wildlife Department assisted in terms of funding to develop the first phase of the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary with consultative assistance of Dr Gen Bandoh, Director of Asahiyama Zoo, one of the most popular Zoos in Japan.
Dr Tsubouchi said they believe the development is a symbolic achievement of the citizens of Malaysia and Japan.
"It is hoped that the BES project is to serve as a major stepping stone for people of two nations to work together in balancing development and biodiversity conservation in the island of mega diversity," he said.
Malaysian Palm Oil Council CEO Tan Sri Yusoff Basiron, meanwhile, said that it gives them great pleasure to be involved in this historic launching of the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary, aimed at ensuring the long term survival of the Borneo Pygmy Elephant.
He also congratulated the extensive efforts and planning that was triggered by the experts at State Wildlife Department in pursuit of this mammoth task.
"When BES is completed it would surely become a showcase and pride of not only Sabah but our entire nation, Malaysia," he said, adding MPOC is similarly proud to be the main sponsor of BES and this is part of its overall ongoing efforts to create conservation opportunities through the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund (MPOWCF).
Through the establishment of MPOWCF, he said, the palm oil industry has been able to become more involved in several conservation programmes throughout Sabah and these allow them to create a more harmonious environment whereby precious wildlife co-exists along with plantation landscapes.
"It is our vision that greater involvement would be demonstrated not only from MPOC but also by palm oil industry partners contributing generously towards wildlife conservation," he said.
Meanwhile, Masidi in commenting on BES said his Ministry recognises the value of the BES as one of the strategies to support the Sabah Elephant Action Plan 2012-2016.
"This initiative demonstrates the State Government's commitment in conservation of the flora and fauna in Sabah.
In promoting the conservation of Bornean Elephants in Sabah, we would like to express our gratitude to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council and Borneo Conservation Trust Japan, including their partners, for their financial support to make the Bornean Elephant Sanctuary a reality in Sabah" he said.
"We are confident that with the enthusiasm and continuous support from the conservation partners to the conservation programme of the Borneo elephants, we will be able to leave a living legacy that will continue to captivate the future generation," he said.
He hoped the big players in the oil palm industry and other Malaysian corporate bodies can step up to the plate and help in the conservation of the Borneo elephants as "it can be quite embarrassing when a country as far as Japan sees the conservation importance of our elephants, but closer to home it seems not everyone seems to care as much."