High number of orphaned elephants cause for worry


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 28 Feb 2016

Safe haven: Some of the rescued calves resting at an elephant sanctuary.

KOTA KINABALU: The increasing number of orphaned baby Borneo elephants being rescued at plantations near forest reserves is worrying the Sabah Wildlife Department.

These baby elephants were found wandering alone, an indication that the adult animals including their mothers, had been killed.

Department director William Baya said that feeding these baby elephants was a financial burden because the cost of feeding one per day was between RM200 and RM250 for the milk formula.

The total cost of feeding them with milk formula amounted to at least RM500,000 annually, he said.

“I would like to call on corporate bodies to help us fund the daily care and feeding of these baby elephants,” he said.

“They could even adopt these baby elephants, similar to the way UK-based non-governmental organisation Orangutan Appeal UK does it for the orang utan in Sepilok.”

William said that Wildlife Rescue Unit rangers had been working round-the-clock for the past three years, rescuing 15 orphaned baby elephants, all below a year old, and caring for them.

He said the rangers rescued two orphans in 2013, adding that another three were found the next year.

There were eight rescued elephant calves last year and just this month alone, rangers saved another two more orphans.

“All these babies were rescued throughout the east coast of Sabah in human-elephant conflict areas in Tawau, Lahad Datu, Telupid, Kinabatangan and Sandakan,” William said.

He attributed this to an increasing loss and further fragmentation of elephant habitat.

William said the translocation of problematic elephants to other areas used to work well about 10 years ago.

Except for a few cases, he said many translocated elephants caused conflict with humans at their new locations or returned to their earlier area.

“The villagers are getting frustrated, shooting and even poisoning elephant herds,” William said.

Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said the killing of adult elephants or complete herds was a another hurdle in the survival of Sabah’s Bornean elephants.

Wildlife researchers have been concerned about the low genetic differentiation among the elephant population due to inbreeding caused by the fragmented habitat, he said.

“This could spell a deadly cocktail that would lead the Bornean elephant on the same trail of extinction like our rhinos, now considered extinct in the wild,” Dr Sen said.

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