Pygmy elephant safely collared to avert conflicts


In good hands: Wildlife rangers and WWF personnel examining the female elephant in Lahad Datu.

KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife rangers recently collared a female adult pygmy elephant at a forest area at Felda Sahabat 45 in the district of Lahad Datu as part of efforts to reduce human-animal conflicts.

The lactating Bornean pygmy elephant (Elephas maximus), which weighs about 1,500kg and has a height of 2.13m (7ft), is part of a herd that was discovered roaming the area, not far from oil palm estates.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said the chipping (or collaring) of the elephant was conducted between 6.30pm and 9pm on Feb 28.

“Prior to that, our officials, including vets and representatives from the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature, started monitoring the herd at around 6am,” he said.

“Once WWF personnel had selected a suitable elephant to be collared, our Wildlife Rescue Unit’s veterinarian darted (tranquillised) the elephant.”

Tuuga said they worked together to place the collar, get blood samples for scientific studies, and perform other examinations on the elephant.

He said the mammal slowly regained consciousness at about 7.50pm on Monday, and later began to walk slowly into a nearby forest next to the plantation.

He said these procedures were vital for elephant monitoring, to understand their movement patterns and living conditions better.

“With such collaring, we will be able to detect their movement and inform plantation owners or estate workers if there is a herd approaching them,” Tuuga said, adding that the people can then exercise the necessary precautions to minimise conflict with the animals.

“Our rangers will also be able to lure them away from plantations or residential areas.”

Tuuga said that monitoring the movement and patterns of elephants can also help scientists understand these mammals better and come up with better proposals for policy makers in terms of conservation.

He also said collars have to be replaced as they get destroyed over time, while the batteries on these devices also have a life span.

The Bornean pygmy elephant is an endangered species, with a population of between 1,000 and 1,500 left in Sabah.

Many elephant deaths have been reported over the years due to poaching, suspected poisoning and human-animal accidents.

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