KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s dwindling Borneo pygmy elephant population is more threatened by conflict with humans amid forest clearing for agriculture than by accidental and natural deaths, says a conservationist.
Dr Marc Ancrenaz, who heads the non-governmental organisation Hutan that works with the state Wildlife Department, said deaths through poisoning and shooting took a toll every year on the roaming elephants, which are estimated to number between 1,500 and 2,500.
“Every year, we believe there are quite a number of elephants dying due to poisoning or being shot dead by people trying to stop them from destroying their plantations,” he said.
Human-elephant conflict, said Dr Ancrenaz, had become unavoidable because as large tracts of jungles and forests were cleared for agricultural and development purposes, these elephants continued to venture into such areas which were their traditional habitat.
“Our forests are fragmented from (Sabah’s eastern) Kinabatangan to (southeastern) Kalabakan in Tawau.
“The fragmentation of our forests will continue to create conflict with villagers and planters because these elephants need to find food,” he said. “Their isolated forest is not sufficient for their foraging needs.”
“We still need more corridors to link the isolated forests for the elephants to move about and breed,” said Dr Ancrenaz.
He said the accidental deaths of the elephants in the mud pool might not have happened if those who dug it closed it up after carrying out their activities in the area.
“It is an irresponsible act,” he said, adding that the area was likely to be the natural roaming ground for the elephants in the forested areas of Kalabakan before logging took place.