KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife rangers can finally breathe easier after completing a month-long translocation operation getting 24 elephants back into their habitat in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.
The herd of elephants, which was first sighted crossing a two-way road along an oil palm estate and village in Lahad Datu in October, had initially been left to wander on its own but under the observation of wildlife rangers.
The authorities had hoped that the animals would return to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.
However, Sabah Wildlife Department’s rescue unit and rangers decided to translocate the jumbos when the elephants were not heading to the wildlife reserve.
“Whenever we face such problems, we will first try to have the elephants back to the reserve without the need for translocation,” state Wildlife Department director William Baya said.
“Unfortunately, after more than a month of trying, we failed to herd them back to Tabin. Not only that, more damage were caused especially to smallholders,” he said.
Baya said this was the biggest translocation ever conducted at any one time by the department.
The translocation team, which was headed by Sabah Wildlife Department officials Jibius Dausip and Dr Laura Benedict, managed to capture all 24 elephants and translocated them back to the reserve.
Baya said two of the elephants had been fixed with satellite collars, sponsored by Danau Girang Field Centre, so that their movements could be monitored and also to better understand human-elephant conflicts.
“Like any other elephant habitat areas in Sabah, Lahad Datu is facing similar human-elephant conflicts.”
Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan, who is also the manager of Wildlife Rescue Unit, said they hoped to do an elephant population survey next year.
The department had been translocating elephants increasingly the past years.
For example, 10 Borneo elephants were sent back into Tabin Wildlife Reserve in 2013.
“Elephant translocation is a very expensive process, estimated to cost between RM20,000 and RM30,000 per elephant,” Dr Sen said.
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