Monday, August 08, 2016

Kinabatangan elephants threatened by bridge and road development

KINABATANGAN: A female Bornean elephant was fitted with a satellite collar on August 3 near Danau Girang Field Centre, in Lot 6 of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS) as part of a collaborative project between the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

Elephant Family, Houston Zoo and Columbus Zoo have supported collaring operations in the Kinabatangan for eight years.

Malaysian PhD student Nurzhafarina Othman (registered at Cardiff University and attached to DGFC) and Malaysian wildlife veterinarian Dr Pakee Nagalingam from the Wildlife Rescue Unit led the collaring operation.

Danau Girang Field Centre director and project leader Dr Benoit Goossens disclosed that DGFC and SWD have collared 14 elephants in the Kinabatangan since 2008, providing crucial information on the movements of the large resident herd: along the river, into the different forest fragments, into oil palm plantations, and in the vicinity of human settlements such as Sukau, Bilit, Abai and Batu Putih villages.

He said the data accumulated over the years from those 14 elephants clearly showed that Sukau is a hotspot for elephant movements and major conflicts in the area could be anticipated if the construction of a road bridge bisecting the wildlife sanctuary goes ahead,.

“The road bridge will undermine efforts from several organisations, not excluding the government of Sabah itself, to maintain natural habitat connectivity and healthy wildlife populations – especially those of large and endangered mammals such as elephants, orangutans, sun bears, proboscis monkeys and clouded leopards,” he said.

Goossens added the State Government declared the Lower Kinabatangan as Sabah’s “Gift to the Earth” in 1999, then gazetted it as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 2005, in order to restore natural habitat along the longest river of the state, reduce illegal wildlife hunting, encroachment, and to keep wild animals safe and accessible to a large tourism industry.