Published on: Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The herd had been raiding the village the past three days, causing massive damage to most of the newly-cltivated oil palm, bananas and other fruit trees - a big loss of income to the villagers whose sole livelihood is farming.
The herd was led by a very dominant and wild matriarch that was not deterred by the loud noise and fires that were lit by the Sabah Wildlife Department's elephant control team.
"This group of elephants was very determined to go into the village and feed on all the banana trees and young oil palm plants voraciously," said Senior Wildlife Ranger Richard Jaikim.
"They seem to actually target the food trees in the village and were not scared at all by the warning shots fired in the air to scare them away," Jaikim said.
Sandakan District Wildlife Officer, Rashid Saburi said they decided to tranquillise the matriarch and the other large female that was causing most of the damage and was leading the other elephants into the village.
"I thank the District Officer of Telupid, Benedict Asmat, for his kind assistance and also the villagers of Kg Bauto for their patience," he said.
State Tourism Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun noted that it was the first time this has happened in 30 years and was one of the reasons for setting up sanctuaries for them.
State Wildlife Department Asst Director, Dr Sen Nathan, said the matriarch would be fitted with a GPS collar provided by Danau Girang Field Centre to monitor the movement of the herd.
"We will translocate the two females, with the herd, back into the Tangkulap forest reserve," he said.
"Though we would try our best to translocate them as far as possible into the forest, there is no guarantee they will remain there as elephant habitat is fast shrinking and further fragmenting due to human encroachment and agricultural activities," he lamented.
According to Director of Danau Girang Field Centre and in charge of the elephant satellite monitoring, Dr Benoit Goosens, two female elephants were collared in the area at the end of 2013 to monitor their movements in the region.
"It is obvious that an increase of landscape change, habitat degradation and loss in the region have dramatically restricted elephant movements," said Goossens.
"Some in Sabah believe that the elephant population is increasing because they see an increase in conflicts. This is nonsense.
Conflicts increase because elephant habitat is decreasing.
"Look at what happened in Kalabakan Forest Reserve where excellent elephant habitat has been replaced by oil palm.
The elephants that were once roaming there had to go somewhere else or be killed by poisoning," said Goossens.
State Wildlife Director, Datuk Dr Laurentius Nayan Ambu said there had been a dramatic increase in human-elephant conflicts in Sabah in the past couple of years with an uptrend number of elephants being killed and poisoned.
"In fact just last week our SWD/WRU unit rescued two baby elephants from a plantation in the Kinabatangan district.
We really do not know what has happened to the mothers of these babies," he said.
"Both babies are now being cared for at Sepilok while the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary is still under construction and unable to take them in," he said.
"We advise all farmers and plantation owners not to take the law in their hands by injuring and/or killing the elephants," he said.
The Department would prosecute anyone found doing so because the Bornean elephant was now a totally protected species.
"We urge everyone to notify us if there are such elephant intrusions in their farms or estates," he said.