Monday, July 18, 2005

Last sanctuaries for jumbos in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Seven areas totalling nearly two million hectares of forests have been identified as the last vestige of elephant ranges in the state.

The Sabah Wildlife Department’s identification of these ranges is crucial to efforts to preserve the elephants, because the ranges serve as buffer zones or corridors for the pachyderms to move about.

“These are protected areas that include forest reserves and zones identified for sustainable forest management programmes,” said Wildlife Department deputy director Laurentius Ambu at a workshop on managing human-elephant conflicts here recently.

He said about 10% of Sabah’s estimated 2,500 elephants were grazing outside these ranges. They had inevitably intruded into plantations and damaged crops.

He said conflicts such as these were unavoidable and the problem could only be reduced, citing certain large oil palm plantation operators who installed electric fences to protect their properties.

Laurentius said such equipment was, however, beyond the reach of most smallholders and this was where non-governmental organisations could assist by providing loans for them to set up such fences.

He said a French NGO had been providing loans to oil palm smallholders at the wildlife-rich area of Sukau in Kinabatangan near the district of Sandakan.

“It is also here that a community-based elephant conservation unit is helping us keep track of the movements of these animals,” Laurentius added.

Courtesy of: The Star