Take steps now to save pygmy elephants


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 16 Jun 2005

BY RUBEN SARIO

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will continue losing its Borneo pygmy elephants unless it takes concrete measures to protect the animals. 

These steps, Sabah honorary wildlife ranger Datuk Wilfred Lingham said, included the establishment of a wildlife corridor by rehabilitating riverine forests along Sungai Kinabatangan, where the elephants’ habitats were shrinking as oil palm plantations continued to expand. 

“There is an urgent need for the state to reclassify Borneo pygmy elephants under the state Wildlife Conservation Ordinance from an endangered species to one that is totally protected.  

“The state Wildlife Department should also look into the setting up of an intelligence unit to gather information on those involved in the killing of any wildlife,” he added. 

The department director, he observed, was empowered to reward informers who tipped off officials on poaching activities. 

“The killings won’t stop if nothing is done,” added the former state Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry permanent secretary. 

Lingham noted that most of the elephants in the Kinabatangan region were hunted down after they had intruded into oil palm estates, many of which were smallholdings of between 6ha and 12ha. 

It was difficult, he said, for estate owners not to react to such intrusions as many had invested their life savings in these ventures.  

“The state should act on the World Wide Fund for Nature’s suggestion that a wildlife corridor be set up along the Kinabatangan river, where electric fences could be put up at certain stretches of the border between riverine forests and plantations,” he said. 

According to Lingham, there are about 2,000 to 2,500 Borneo pygmy elephants left in Sabah, of which an estimated 1,000 are squeezed into the remaining pockets of forests along the Kinabatangan river. 

Some 500 elephants are in the 120,000ha Tabin Wildlife Reserve near Lahad Datu and another 500 to 1,000 in Kalabakan. 

There have been at least three killings of Borneo pygmy elephants in Sabah over the past eight months. 

The owners of oil palm plantations and also villagers whose farms have been destroyed by elephants are among the prime suspects of the killings.  

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