Malaysia: Villagers learn to keep Borneo pygmy elephants away using PVC 'cannons'

POLIANA RONNIE SIDOM New Straits Times 18 Feb 18;

TELUPID: Some young villagers here have been consulting with Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) and resorting to google online to find ways to keep the Borneo pygmy elephants away effectively.

As human-elephant conflict grows in this area where the huge mammal has been trespassing into village settlements, they took the initiative to make ‘cannons’ from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe, locally known as 'ladum', which is believed to scare the herd and prevent them from destroying crops and properties.

The step was taken following a shortage of staff in the department as well as WRU staff to fully manage the situation at six locations which have this problem.

Syaiful Anthony Stephen, 32, from Kampung Gambaron, said the villagers involved normally moved in groups of three to eight every night on patrol duty since a herd of elephants trespassed their village early this year.

The home-made ‘sound bomb’ made from PVC pipe, plastic bottle and gas lighter, uses spirit as explosive and a safety cone instead of a loud speaker to chase the wildlife back into the forest.

“Besides learning from WRU, we used the search engine ‘Google’ to see how ‘ladum’ is made by Indonesian community to scare elephants away.

“Previously, the herd would stay a week or two but now they stay longer - even over a month.

“So the number of elephants entering our village has grown and the situation if out of control. They not only damage crops but also property like cars,” he said when met here.

Besides his village, the other five areas facing the increasing human-elephant conflict were Kg Liningkung, Kg Bauto, Kg Telupid, Telupid town and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Telupid.

Previously the department director Augustine Tuuga said 20 elephants from two herds, believed to be from Deramakot and Segaliud forest reserves, were spotted at the village and were suspected to be the same herd of elephants which trespassed the place last year.

At the same time, Syaiful was hopeful that the district here could be promoted as a tourist attraction following more elephants being spotted.

“Since the elephants return every three or four months even after they are chased back into the forest, we hoped Telupid could gain prominence like Sukau amongst international tourists," he said.

"The presence of the elephants here can provide various opportunities, including economically.”