KUALA LUMPUR: Major palm oil plantation groups have agreed on cooperation to coexist with elephants.
The groups are Sime Darby Plantation, IOI Plantation, Aramijaya Agri and Agro Sdn Bhd, FGV Holdings Bhd and Felda.
Other signatories to the agreement, which was witnessed by Perhilitan director of protected areas Salman Saaban here on Wednesday (June 22), are the University of Nottingham Malaysia and non-profit organisation Earthworm Foundation.
The agreement is among the first multi-agency, human-elephant coexistence projects in Peninsular Malaysia using a large landscape approach, covering 19 estates in Johor with around 9,000 people.
Kulim (Malaysia) Plantation and Wildlife Conservation Society-Malaysia Programme have not signed the agreement but are currently working together with the coalition.
There are an estimated 1,200 to 1,700 elephants in Malaysia, where they are a totally protected species.
“This is an excellent initiative that provides an active platform for the plantations and conservation groups to collaborate and exchange knowledge, creating a win-win situation for the people and for the conservation of wild elephants.
“Johor is currently a hotspot for elephant-vehicle collisions. This endangers both human and elephant lives, and results in further cost from vehicle damages,” said Salman.
“Hopefully, we can expand the project to other areas,” he added.
Johor Forestry Department director Datuk Salim Aman said the corridor initiatives under the Achieving Coexistence with Elephants (ACE) project would also enhance its ongoing efforts on the ground to restore ecological linkages in the Central Forest Spine.
By working in a coalition across Segamat, Kluang, Mersing and Kota Tinggi, the ACE project is trying to increase the sense of safety for people and support the agriculture sector in mitigating human-elephant conflict responsibly.
At the same time, it allows for scientific research to be carried out on elephants’ roaming behaviour and habitat needs.
University of Nottingham Malaysia’s Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants principal investigator Dr Wong Ee Phin said Malaysia still had a good number of the animal.
“We want to have the support of plantations to manage human-wildlife conflict responsibly,” she said.
The coalition said it hoped that other plantations in Johor would be willing to follow suit and support the coexistence efforts.
It said it had also identified five potential elephant corridors in the landscape and was currently in the process of selecting two with the highest potential for advocacy.