Sabah mulls new 'life corridor' for elephants
Published on: Tuesday, October 23, 2018
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Kota Kinabalu: The State Government is contemplating creating a new "corridor of life" linking three known pygmy elephant habitats which will have ample food and thus ensure their survival through minimising conflict with humans.They are the Lower Kinabatangan Managed Elephant Range (MER), Tabin MER and Central Sabah MER in the Danum area.

The forests in these elephant habitat are a mix of primary and secondary forests. Elephants eat grasses, roots, fruit and bark.

They use their tusks to pull the bark from trees and dig roots out of the ground. An adult elephant can eat 300 pounds (136kg) of food in a day,and drink up to 150-200 litres of water per day.

"For a start, we will consider planting vegetation (grasses and shrubs) in the three areas individually before connecting the areas at a later stage of development.

"The aim is to create a sustainable food chain within the three Managed Elephant Ranges. Such move will avert crop damage in the oil-palm plantations andsmallholdings," a joint meeting involving the two State Ministries concluded.

The Ministries involved are the Ministry of Tourism, Culture Ministers (Datuk Christina Liew) and and Environment and Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry (Datuk Junz Wong).

This is in view of 116 elephant deaths recorded between October 2010 and September this year. Of this, 30 elephants died this year alone, the latest, a female aged between 12 and 15 years, died at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve (Tawau) on October 18.

According to Dr Roza, a veterinarian with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) who conducted the post-mortem, the elephant died due to a fight with other elephants.

It was decided that given the loss of habitat, the 2,000-odd elephants need a "home" so that they will not encroach into oil-palm plantations and risk getting snared or shot to death.

"Bornean pygmy elephants are a 'prestige' breed as they are peculiar to Borneo. We are intensifying our efforts to protect the elephants and prevent their extinction.

"In the meantime, we need the cooperation of plantation owners and workers in not causing any harm to the animals but to inform the relevant authorities (Sabah Wildlife Department) in the event of any encroachment," the Ministers said in a joint statement.

Expressing the Government's determination to resolve the human-elephant conflict, Liew, who is also a Deputy Chief Minister, and Wong stressed that political will is indispensable in this respect.

"A special task force will be set up, comprising officials from the ministries and relevant agencies," they said. The SWD has been entrusted with the task of preparing a paper on the proposed Resolution of the Human-Elephant Conflict in Sabah for submission to the State Cabinet. Assistant Director (Bornean Elephants Conservation Unit) Dr Sen Nathan has been asked to prepare the paper.

The DCM said the joint meeting was in response to the call by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal to the two ministries to collectively address the outstanding problem.

It was unanimously agreed that the Sabah Forestry Department be enlisted in the Elephant Protection Cause. Its Director will be invited to attend the next meeting.

Breakdown of the total number of elephant deaths is as follows : 2010 (2), 2011 (6), 2012 (5), 2013 (23), 2014 (6), 2015 (15), 2016 (20), 2017 (9) and 2018 (30).

Number of elephant deaths by district is as follows : Died in captivity (2), Keningau (1), Tawau/Kalabakan (35), Lahad Datu (30), Kinabatangan (31) and Sandakan/Telupid (17).

The meeting also discussed the possibility of getting agencies under the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry to "adopt" one or two elephants in the interest of their well-being. Liew suggested that the previous plan of "loaning" an elephant to the Rasa Ria Reserve in Tuaran, be re-visited if possible.

Rosmadi conceded that with the presence of 15 elephants, there is congestion at the LWP. "Ideally, by international convention, the zoo should have only four to five elephants. So the rest should be in the wild but then there is not enough food," he said while emphasising the need to relocate 10 elephants to other areas.

Meanwhile, the Minister questioned Tuuga over the five-month delay in the completion of renovation works at the LWP. It was supposed to have been completed by the end of September. Rosmadi said the works will be completed by the end of October.

The issue of smuggling of plants was also brought to the Minister's attention.


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