Smallholders, local communities urged to form crop protection teams

Elephant encroachment into farms and plantations is becoming more common in Sabah. — Filepic

KOTA KINABALU: Plantation smallholders and local communities in the east coast of Sabah are urged to form crop protection teams where human-elephant conflict is unavoidable.

Sabah Wildlife Department’s (SWD) director Augustine Tuuga said the task of protecting elephants cannot be upon the government’s shoulders alone.

In a statement released by WWF Malaysia quoting him, Tuuga said a substantial amount the department’s resources and time were channelled to mitigate human-elephant conflict.

“However, the limited amount of resources available have meant that the department’s rangers are stretched and cannot always attend to all reports and complaints.

“Smallholders and local communities can inform the nearest SWD office should the elephants potentially endanger their life or crops and property.

“However, if SWD is unable to attend immediately to the request, with proper training from SWD, these groups can work together to form crop protection teams to try and protect their crops.

“Those assisting in this have to bear in mind that elephants are wild animals, and they should stay alert and maintain a safe distance,” said Tuuga.

He added that big plantation companies can play a role to protect elephants through implementation of pre-emptive long-term mitigation plans by incorporating elephant requirements into land use, such as establishing wider riparian buffers and the placement of integrated electric-fences at the landscape level.

Sabah Forestry Department’s chief conservator of forests Datuk Mashor Mohd Jaini said plantation owners can also play a part in reducing elephant poaching incidences as some of these cases happened in forest boundaries adjacent to plantations.

“Plantation owners and forest concession holders can play a proactive role by reporting of any suspicious activity in their area such as trespassers, unknown vehicles and gunshot sounds to the Sabah Forestry Department or SWD.

“In addition, we strictly condemn the rampant snaring activities (set up to catch smaller animals) especially in forest boundaries adjacent to plantations,” he said.

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