State Wildlife Dept stretched in manpower

KOTA KINABALU: It has been a hectic time for wildlife rangers in Sabah following reports of a crocodile attack that killed a child in Lahad Datu and incidents of elephants roaming near schools and on farms.

State Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said apart from being stretched in manpower in their bid to capture the killer crocodile, they were now attending to several reports of elephants in Lahad Datu and Tungku.

“We have not been able to detect the crocodile involved in the recent attack but our rangers are still on the ground, trying their best,” he said when contacted Tuesday (Dec 6).

“And then on Monday (Dec 5) morning, we were informed about another incident, that a Borneo pygmy elephant had wandered into a school in Lahad Datu, not far from the Lahad Datu airport,” he said.

The juvenile elephant seemed confused and scared, according to rangers, and it was trying to evade capture, Tuuga said.

There is a short video showing the elephant running away from a shouting man in the incident.

“It might have gotten lost from its herd and was trying to find food along its way home, but somehow wandered into the school compound,” he said, adding the department only has 60 rangers to respond to cases statewide.

He said there were no reports of any injuries caused by the elephant, and advised the public to stay away from it if they saw the animal.

Apart from that area, Tuuga said they were also told about a few other separate incidents where elephants wandered close to residential areas in the Tungku Felda estate area.

“These elephants were seen in smaller groups together, and our rangers are also trying to lure them away back to their habitat,” he said.

He said many of these elephants moved in herds in search for food and had wandered into farms owned by villagers.

“Of course, these villagers do not want the elephants close and are not willing to have their plantations eaten and destroyed along the way,” Tuuga said.

He urged anyone who encountered any form of wildlife to stay away, and immediately contact the Wildlife Department for assistance.

He said humans and animals can co-exist peacefully, with proper management and guidelines.

Tuuga said apart from wildlife department rangers, a total of 15 Wildlife Rescue Unit personnel are also available to assist in cases involving wildlife in the state.

“This is obviously not enough, but we try to make do where we can,” he said.

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