Prevent human-elephant conflicts, Johor urged

Vegetation destroyed in a village in Kota Tinggi after elephants entered to look for food.

JOHOR BARU: The state govern­ment must take measures to better protect areas where wildlife roam freely to prevent an escalation in human and animal conflicts in future.

Malaysian Nature Society vice-president Vincent Chow said there were several major areas in Johor which needed protection, the Panti and Lenggor forests in Kahang and Mersing, and Labis National Park.

“Elephants roam these areas. Plantations might be destroyed as a result,” he said.

“If we continue to encroach into their habitat, the animals will be forced to come out and look for food in our villages.

“The elephants will continue to come out and destroy plantations,” he said.

Chow said Johor should instruct district land offices to work with the Wildlife and National Parks Department before issuing licences for land clearing works near forests and jungles.

“There are some farmers who burn tyres to scare away elephants from their farms and plantations,” he said, adding that elephants were intelligent animals that usually use the same route when looking for food.

“When their regular feeding areas are replaced by plantations, they will look for food elsewhere, like at farms in the area,” Chow said in commenting on the case of three female elephants found dead due to allegedly poisoning at a plantation area in Kluang recently.

Chow said it was the worst case of cruelty in Johor in recent years.

“The government must find ways or carry out a study on how both humans and animals can live together and avoid conflicts,” he said.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) assistant director Francis Cheong said destroying forests in Johor was one of the reasons many of the elephants were roaming into plantations.

Cheong described the death of the three elephants as a serious human-elephant conflict.

“In 2005, forest reserves in Johor were about 21% of total land area. This figure may have changed by now.

“Development in rural areas have displaced these animals,” he said, adding that when elephants liked a particular type of crop in an area, they would keep returning to feed on them.

“Elephants also travel long distances and have migratory routes that they follow.

“If plantations or farms are located along their migratory route, they are bound to stop and look for food,” he said.

“The government must provide habitats for these animals to roam and survive,” Cheong said.

“Regular surveys must be carried out in Johor and southern Pahang to obtain data such as their population numbers, composition of herds, sex ratio and their movements.

“Such surveys are costly and WCS managed to carry out just one population survey in 2008 which estimated there were 113 elephants in Johor,” he said.

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