WWF Malaysia: Sabah still global leader in conservation despite recent elephant killings

Orangutans from Sabah in Malaysia. — AFP pic
Orangutans from Sabah in Malaysia. — AFP pic

KOTA KINABALU, Nov 14 — WWF Malaysia conservation director Henry Chan today said that despite the recent spate of endangered elephant deaths, Sabah still remains a global leader in terms of conservation efforts.

“Sabah is definitely on the right track — we are the world leaders in terms of conservation.

“Sabah’s policy of having 30 per cent of its land as protected area, its forest reserves certified and ensuring oil palm plantations certified according to Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) — because this is guaranteeing all its palm oil and forest products will be certified.  A lot of organisations are looking to Sabah now,” said Chan.

He was speaking to reporters after a courtesy call to Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal by WWF chairman Tunku Ali Rehauddin Muhriz.

Chan said although WWF was saddened with the recent news of elephant deaths, solutions are available if the relevant authorities and parties could work together.

He said current working relationships with Sabah Softwood have yielded success with reducing human and elephant conflict following a series of recommendations including collaring elephants and putting up fencing.

“We are working with Sabah Parks, the Wildlife Department, the Forestry Department and companies by way of collaring elephants. You can track the elephants by satellite and monitor their movements, that way the workers know how to avoid them,” said Chan.

He said WWF also works with plantations to establish wildlife corridors to link forests to reduce fragmentation and allow elephants to move around.

Chan said for instance, Sabah Softwoods set aside 1000 hectares to create a corridor from Kolumpang to Segama allowing elephants to move from one forest to the next.

“Places that we work with end up with very little conflict. Prior to working with us, Sabah Softwoods estimated damages from wildlife conflict to be about RM500,000. After working with us, they reported just RM20,000. In the last three years, they have had between RM2,000 to RM3,000 reported costs of damages.

“These are the solutions. We have collared 13 elephants so far, and they can be monitored by the hour, you can see them, so this could be a tourism attraction as well,” he said, adding that WWF is working to raise awareness levels among villagers and smallholders.

Chan also pointed out that a recent survey on Orangutans showed a stable population of 11,000.

On efforts to prevent fish bombing, WWF said that this is an ongoing effort to coordinate themselves with marine authorities and Sabah Parks.

Among the actions taken is by placing detection devices that could locate blasts.

Chan said such detection devices are currently placed in the east coast town of Semporna, where scuba diving activities are popular.

“We want to show the authorities how serious the problem is. We detected 1,115 blasts over a six-month period. This will help to deter bombings because the people know we can detect them,” he said.

Chan said authorities should consider placing more hydrophones in areas known for fish bombing.

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