Rangers guiding elephant herd to safer areas after fatal attack on woman in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: A herd of about 40 to 50 Borneo pygmy elephants are being guided to safer areas following an attack that killed an elderly pillion rider on Friday (Sept 23) in an oil palm estate in Sabah's east coast Tawau.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin said state Wildlife Department investigations indicated that the herd was possibly heading towards food sources in the area as fresh oil palm chipping operations were ongoing at the time.

"The rangers in tracking operations found that the elephant was part of a herd with calves that one (named Caly) was fitted with a satellite collar this year.

"Following their observation, rangers noted that only one of them was very aggressive," he said, adding that the rangers' operations were continuing in efforts to guide the herd to safer areas.

In the 7.30am incident on Friday, the victim - Syamsiah Arsyad, 67, and her husband Tahir Saleh, 63, were on a motorcycle riding past Dumpas Estate under Sabah Softwood when an adult elephant suddenly charged at them.

Syamsiah, an Indonesian, died at the scene after the elephant swung its trunk at them before trampling on her.

Her husband managed to escape unhurt in the Dumpas Estate area which is an active elephant movement corridor.

As an effort to reduce conflict, Jafry said that the estate management would put more warning signs to inform the public of the elephant corridor to ensure that its staff and public entering the area remain cautious.

"All the estate supervisors would be provided whistles to alert people to the presence of elephants and inform their security department," he said, adding that they would inform the rangers if there were elephants in the estate.

Jafry said that the Dumpas Estate was a corridor for the animals and napier grass has been planted for them to graze as part of efforts to reduce human-animal conflict as well as destruction of crops due to animals.

Electric fences have also been put in place along the corridor through initiatives funded by the Malaysian Palm Oil Green Conservation Foundation (MPOGCF).

Sabah Softwoods and WWF Malaysia have a working relationship in setting up a wildlife corridor to protect the elephants in the area.

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