Malaysia: NGOs team up with locals in elephant conservation efforts

Olivia Miwil New Straits Times 8 Oct 18;

TELUPID: Non-governmental organisations (NGO) are teaming up with locals here to create a sustainable model to support humans and elephants co-existence in the landscape.

A Community Elephant Ranger Team (CERT) based here, which was formed in March, comprises of trained volunteers from Kampung Liningkung, Kampung Bauto, Kampung Gambaron and Kampung Telupid to help in monitoring elephant migrations between Telupid, Beluran and Tongod.

This year, Sabah has recorded 26 elephant deaths in the east coast to date with over 100 elephants sighted visiting the Telupid area including wandering into Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Telupid in March.

Back in 1972, elephants lived on a flat area known as Gana, which is close to the Labuk river in Telupid.

However the elephants moved out from the place when there was a huge forest fire in 1985 and they were not sighted for many years until they recently reappeared in human settlements.

One of the CERT members Romineshon Kumpil said local communities have to find ways to live in harmony with the elephants via their project dubbed as “Human Elephant Harmony".

The 22-month project is funded by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry through Forever Sabah, with partnership with Dr Nurzhafarina Othman (Seratu Aatai Project), Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), HUTAN's Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Project (HUTAN-KOCP), the Sabah Forestry Department and the Sabah Wildlife Department.

“We can now contribute geoinformatics data to inform on wildlife mitigation projects,” Romineshon said in a press statement.

Elephant herd movement data is still being collected and analysed to ascertain factors that influence herds’ distribution around Telupid.

As for now, it is known that while big plantations can fence out the elephants, smallholders’ plots were often severely damaged.

Some villages and infrastructure lay in the elephants’ migration routes but the rural communities lacked the resources to solve these issues alone.

“CERT also has geoinformatics data to show that the proposed Pan-Borneo Highway routing overlaps with the natural trails that are heavily used by the herds.

“Besides cutting off elephant migration routes, roads built in inappropriate areas will cause vehicular accidents with elephants, especially at night when visibility is low,” the statement said.

Besides that, the team is also working with its partners for collecting field data to inform on the design and routing of electric fences.

Meanwhile, the project facilitator Claudia Lasimbang said, any new development for infrastructure or industrial crop, should consider the inputs and engagement with the local indigenous community who understand local wildlife more than anyone else.