Malaysia: New road will kill Kinabatangan wildlife, says researcher

RUBEN SARIO The Star 7 Aug 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A proposed road that will cut through the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah’s east coast will cause irreparable environmental harm, an ongoing study on Bornean elephant population has reaffirmed.

Over the past six years, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) researchers along with Sabah Wildlife Department rangers have placed satellite tracking collars on 14 elephants.

The latest elephant to be collared was a female on Aug 3 near the DGFC as part of a project supported by the Elephant Family, Houston Zoo and Columbus Zoo in the United States.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goosens said the collared elephants have been providing crucial information on the movements of the large resident herd - along the river and into the different forest fragments.

The elephant herd was also tracked moving into oil palm plantations, and in the vicinity of human settlements such as Sukau, Bilit, Abai and Batu Putih villages, said Goosens, the project leader.

"The data accumulated over the years from those 14 elephants clearly show that Sukau is a hotspot for elephant movements and we can anticipate major conflicts in the area if the construction of a road and bridge bisecting the wildlife sanctuary goes ahead,” added Goosens.

He said the construction of the bridge and road near Kampung Sukau would result in elephants being killed as well as bring harm to villagers.

“I anticipate massive conflicts in the Sukau area and the government will have to fork out millions of ringgit to mitigate these problems,” Goosens added.

The construction of the road and bridge would also undermine efforts by several organisations, including state authorities, to maintain natural habitat connectivity and healthy wildlife populations, he said.

This was especially true in the case of the large and endangered mammals such as elephants, orangutan, sun bears, proboscis monkeys and clouded leopards, he said.

He noted that the Sabah government had declared the lower Kinabatangan as a wildlife sanctuary in 1999 to restore natural habitat along Sabah’s longest river, reduce illegal wildlife hunting, encroachment, and to keep wild animals safe and accessible to a large tourism industry.

“Several million ringgit have been invested to rehabilitate, reconnect, and restore the forest fragments along the river,” Goosens said.

“The Kinabatangan has attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists and generated millions of ringgit for the government,” he said.

He said it was not wise to destroy years of hard work to make this place a real corridor of life, by building a bridge and sealing a road that will split the sanctuary in three (as it is already split in two by the Batu Putih bridge).


Road not a good idea for wildlife
RUBEN SARIO The Star 8 Aug 16;

KOTA KINABALU: An ongoing study on the Borneo elephant population has reaffirmed a proposed road that goes through the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary on Sabah’s east coast will cause irreparable harm to the animals and environment there.

Over the past six years, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) researchers, along with Sabah Wildlife Department rangers, have been placing tracking collars on elephants. Fourteen have been tagged so far.

The latest elephant to be collared, a female, was tagged on Aug 3 near the DGFC.

The tagging is part of a project called Elephant Family, supported by the Houston and Columbus zoos in the United States.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goosens said the collared elephants had been providing crucial information on the movements of the large resident herd.

The herd had been seen going into oil palm plantations and the vicinity of human settlements in Sukau, Bilit, Abai and Batu Putih, said Goosens, the project leader.

“Data accumulated over the years from those 14 elephants clearly shows that Sukau is a hotspot for elephant movements.

“We can anticipate major conflicts in the area if construction of the road and bridge that bisects the wildlife sanctuary goes ahead,” he said.

He said the bridge and road near Kampung Sukau would result in elephants being killed and nearby villagers could be harmed as well.

“The Government will have to fork out millions of ringgit to mitigate these problems,” Goosens said.

Building the road and bridge would also undermine the efforts of several other organisations, including state authorities, to maintain natural habitat connectivity and healthy wildlife populations, according to Goosens.

“Millions of ringgit have been invested to rehabilitate, reconnect and restore the fragmented forest areas along the river,” Goosens said.

He also said Kinabatangan attracted countless tourists and generated millions of ringgit for the Government.

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