Malaysia: Call to set up elephant-friendly zone to resolve human-elephant conflict in Sabah

Poliana Ronnie Sidom New Straits Times 20 May 18;

TELUPID: Establishing an elephant-friendly zone with easy access for Bornean pygmy elephants to look for food can help tackle the problem of these animals intruding into settlements.

Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) director Dr Benoit Goossens said pygmy elephants frequently intruded settlements in Telupid due to the landscape changing from forests into farms, providing easy food access and playgrounds to these wildlife mammals.

“Elephant translocation is not the best long-term solution in resolving human-elephant conflict in Sabah.

…Maybe (we) need to establish an elephant-friendly zone here where there is easy access (for the wildlife) to get food such as bananas and grass, among others,” he said.

Goossens said the translocation programme was expensive, about RM30,000 per elephant, and it stressed the animals.

He said DGFC had installed satellite collars on two elephants, and they were currently conducting research on the mammals’ movement and behaviour to find ways to reduce the conflict.

He noted several areas particularly near oil palm plantations in Telupid, Kinabatangan, Tawau, Lahad Datu, and the Tabin Wildlife Reserve were facing human-elephant conflict, and it was particulrly serious inTelupid.

Forever Sabah project coordinator Claudia Lasimbang also shared a similar view about setting up an elephant-friendly zone, adding such projects were aimed at identifying suitable locations for wild elephants to roam.

Forever Sabah is an initiative jointly undertaken by non-governmental organisations, researchers, state government, and local community through a harmony project between humans and elephants in Telupid.

“Areas favoured by these elephants need to be identified through local knowledge, information gathered by rangers, and scientific data to ensure (the areas) are safe for them.

“The creation of an elephant zone will encourage the rehabilitation of selected areas with food sources and elephant safety as priority,” she said.

Through such project, Claudia said Community-Based Elephant Force (CERT) Team needed to be formed to create a sense of responsibility among the locals on elephant conservation.

As a start, she noted three youths from Kampung Gambaron, Liningkung and Telupid had been selected to form the team, adding that the trio would be given training by Sabah Wildlife Department and NGOs.

Sabah to engage consultant to study how best to handle human-elephant conflict
Kristy Inus New Straits Times 22 May 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew announced several short and long term measures to address the elephant situation and deaths in the state.

During the first meeting with the Ministry’s Head of Departments and permanent secretary today, the newly minted minister said the short term measure was increasing manpower from two to at least 10 rangers manning a plantation area, particularly at the east coast.

The meeting also decided on engaging consultant to study how best to handle the human-elephant conflict.

“We no longer can rely on holding meetings with oil palm plantation owners.

“Elephants are protected but it is also a burden to smallholders when their crops are destroyed, so the best way is to find a two-pronged approach, hopefully through this long term measure.

“At the same time the Ministry will also reactivate the reward system, where we award witnesses of elephant killings who step forward,” she told reporters after the meeting.

Liew was responding to recent reports of elephant deaths the cause of which was still being investigated as there were no gunshot wounds.

Liew added they had to engage a consultant for the study.

Meanwhile, commenting on her ministerial appointment, Liew expressed excitement over the portfolio which she said was very challenging.

“I like this job because it challenges me and I am determined to move Sabah’s tourism industry forward,” she said, adding that Chinese tourists will still be the main target market.

Liew who is Tawau Member of Parliament, also wanted to see the tourism industry boosted in other main cities like Sandakan and Tawau besides the state capital of Kota Kinabalu.

On another note, she announced that she had informed the Sabah Law Association of quitting as a practicing lawyer, a career she held for over 20 years.

The Api-Api assemblyman also said she would have to practice time management well as she had to go back and forth Kota Kinabalu and Tawau.