KOTA KINABALU: At least five of the 11 China-bound endangered Borneo pygmy elephants will be released into the wild soon.
Each would be strapped with a global positioning system collar provided by WWF Malaysia so that their movements can be monitored.
The five are expected to be sent to a forest in Kuamut on Sabah’s east coast after a survey showed that the place was ideal because it was 50km from the closest estate or village with ample food source and other similar herds.
The remaining six would be kept at the soon-to-be opened Sabah Zoo near Lok Kawi here, according to wildlife officials.
A total of 12 elephants were scheduled to be sent as gifts to zoos in China and Japan last year but it was stopped after environmentalists protested against the move because of fear that they would be ill-treated.
Since the state government banned the export of the rare pygmy elephant, the 12 animals were kept in Kudat and the zoo here. One of them also died sometime last year leaving the 11 elephants under the care of the Wildlife Department.
When asked when the pygmy elephants would be released into the wild after a seminar here yesterday, Deputy Chief Minister and Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat said the decision would be made by the Wildlife Department.
“The department will have to assess the situation and if need be they will all be released to the wild,” Chong said.
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