KOTA KINABALU: The frequent conflict between man and beast has stretched wildlife rangers so thin so that they are calling on plantation owners and farmers to take their own initiatives to protect their crops from elephants without hurting the animals.
“There are just so many plantations and smallholdings that an elephant can enter anytime. There is no way the department can cope and provide assistance to all,” Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said.
He said the government wanted to optimise its resources.
“The best is for all of them to be able to protect their own property without hurting or killing the elephants,” he said when contacted about a farmer’s cry for help after elephants destroyed his newly-planted oil palm, banana plants and coconut trees on a 1.6ha farm.
Farmer Abdul Ghani Kosoi, 62, complained that some 40 elephants raided his farm at Kampung Sukau in Kinabatangan last week.
They remained there for three days, destroying the crops.
He estimated his losses at RM5,000.
Ghani said it was the second time that elephants had destroyed his crops, adding that there could be up to four “visits” in a year.
“We did not dare get out of the house because we were surrounded by elephants. We were lucky they did not turn aggressive and destroy our home,” he said.
Tuuga said his department received Ghani’s complaint but he was unable to send his officers there as they were busy attending to similar problems in Kampung Bobotong and Kampung Entilibon in central Sabah’s Tongod district.
“No staff were available because other districts were also facing same problem,” he said.
Tuuga urged oil palm plantation owners to put up electric fencing if their palms were still young (less than five years old) and susceptible to damage.
The department, he said, could also help to train them in protecting their property while awaiting for assistance “if we cannot attend immediately to their request for help”.
Sabah has been grappling with human-elephant conflicts in the east coast with some 25 elephant deaths, either due to poaching or unidentified natural causes, reported in the wild so far this year.
Conservationists are pushing for the need to create forest corridors for the elephants to roam between fragmented forest reserves in the east coast as one of the quick solutions to reduce such conflicts.