Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Will elephant translocation help mitigate human-elephant conflicts in Sabah?

LAHAD DATU: On May 28, the Wildlife Rescue Unit from Sabah Wildlife Department and staff from Danau Girang Field Centre translocated a bull elephant from a plantation near Lahad Datu into the safety of the Ulu Kalumpang Forest Reserve.

The bull was fit with a satellite collar and during the last week, he has been investigating his new home.

Ulu Kalumpang Forest Reserve, with an area of 510 km2, has a very low number of elephants (about 10) and it could be a good site for translocating individuals.

This is part of a long-term programme that Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre kick-started to tackle human-elephant conflicts in agricultural plantations such as palm oil.

Funding is provided by The Asian Elephant Foundation and Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, but it will require much more support.

Dr Laurentius Ambu, director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, said one of the solutions that agricultural plantations could use to avoid crop raiding is electric fencing.

“However, despite the fact that some large holders have fenced their estates, we are facing increasing conflicts, when elephants, and especially bulls enter plantations because the owners do not dare to switch on the power of their electric fences,” explained Laurentius.

“If plantations spent money to protect their crops with electric fences, why don’t they turn the power on?,” he added.

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said extensive agriculture through agricultural plantations such as palm oil had considerably reduced the habitat of the elephant and other wildlife in Sabah, therefore increasing human-elephant conflicts.

“We all agree that oil palm is necessary for the development of the country.

However, there is a need to better manage the landscape within and around the plantations, by providing routes for wildlife to move from one forest to another.