KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department's move to cull a bull elephant that had killed a plantation worker is a "step backwards" in conservation efforts of the endangered species, WWF Malaysia said.
WWF Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said other options are available in dealing with the male elephant.
In a statement Tuesday, he said that while there is no "one size fits all solution" to the complex human-elephant conflict, some possible mitigating measures include the use of electric fences at strategic locations.
Dr Sharma said setting up forest corridors between tracts of jungles will also help reduce the conflict.
"It is hoped that the recent culling will not be a precedent for human-elephant conflict cases in the future," he said.
"Borneo elephants are mostly found in Sabah and their population has dwindled over the years due to habitat loss and such conflicts. Therefore, the death of one member is a huge blow to the whole population," Dr Sharma added.
He noted that the department had confirmed that the culled bull elephant was in musth, a period when the males are known to exhibit aggressive behaviour, and consequently are susceptible to provocation.
"Therefore, those working or living in areas inhabited by elephants need to remain alert of their surroundings, particularly during dawn and after 3pm when elephants are known to be more active," Dr Sharma added.
"When confronting elephants, restraint must be practised and retribution avoided, as killing elephants merely addresses the symptoms of a problem," he said.
Dr Sharma said unsustainable land use planning in Sabah is also partly to blame for human-elephant conflict.
He said WWF-Malaysia is working with the wildlife and forestry departments as well as plantation companies on joint mitigation options to reduce conflicts via the Kalabakan human-elephant conflict working group in Tawau.
Wildlife department director Augustine Tuuga said the bull elephant was shot and killed late Sunday, a day after it trampled an Indonesian national to death on Nov 19.