With only 2,500 elephants left, of which 50 are in Kalimantan, Sabah wants to relook areas that have been planned for agricultural and commercial timber development.
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s first and only Elephant Sanctuary at the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary about two hours’ drive from Sandakan is the state administration’s first commitment towards protecting the Borneon breed.
In launching the Borneon Elephant Sanctuary (BES) this week, state Tourism Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun said “more must and will be done”.
“But more must and will be done, as it would take a very strong state government like the one we have now, to push through a few major challenges that we are currently facing, that are major threats to elephants and other wildlife.
“We must also relook into present areas that have been planned for agricultural and commercial timber development, which are also important and critical habitats for elephants and other wildlife.
“Forest and agricultural management practices should also be in concurrence with conserving Sabah’s wildlife and not the other way round,” Masidi said alluding to the encroachment in the riparian reserves along Sabah’s major rivers by plantations and human settlements.
He said the state cabinet had unanimously agreed to upgrade the conservation status of the Bornean Elephant to “Totally Protected”, thus giving the maximum protection to these species under Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment.
The BES will be a natural habitat refuge to be developed to meet the needs of endangered elephants.
BES will be to elephants as what the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is to orangutans.
With the ever increasing human-elephant conflict, any injured and orphaned elephants rescued will be treated, cared for and whenever possible, be nursed back and rehabilitated back to the wild.
2,500 elephants left in Borneo
Masidi said his ministry recognised the value of BES as one of the strategies to support Elephant Action Plan 2012-2016 Sabah. This initiative demonstrated the Sabah government’s commitment in the conservation of the flora and fauna in Sabah.
Recent surveys conducted by Sabah Wildlife Department and WWF have put the number of Bornean Elephants in the island of Borneo to not more than 2,500 individuals.
Except for a very small population of not more than 50 elephants residing in north Kalimantan, the rest of the elephants are in Sabah.
The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) is the major and prime funder of this project and sharing the Sabah Wildlife Department’s vision for conserving wildlife in Sabah. MPOC gave RM 5.2 million towards the conservation project.
Additionally, Borneo Conservation Trust Japan and her partners ; Ashaikawa City Municipal Government, Asahiyama Zoo, Saraya Corporation, Hunting World Japan, Tokio Marine Insurance Corporation, NTT Data Corporation, Kirin Beverage Corporation, Taisei Consturction Corporation, Asta Corporation, IA Research Corporation, Teijin Corporation and Yusen Logistics Corporation, covered the construction cost of pahse one of BES amounting to RM1.6 million.
Phase One can house 10 elephants, and when completed, it can accommodate up to 200 elephants. BES Is located at Lot 8 of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, gazetted under the Wildlife Conservation Enatcment 1997. The area is approximately 1,214 hectares, and the built-up area for BES is about25 hectares. Lot 8 is situated at least 2.5 km from the main Sandakan-Lahad Datu Road.
The first phase of BES project was started on Oct 1, 2012 by Borneo Conservation Trust. Phase One development covers one elephant handling paddock,one staff quarters and one storage building. The construction of this phase was completed on June 28, 2013.
The overall master development plan of BES is currently being developed by Borneo Conservation Trust, and is expected to be completed by end of this month.
The estimated cost of BES’ infrastructure construction in 25 hectares is about RM 25 to 30 million, while the cost for the overall master plan for BES including establishment of the ecological corridor between Segaliud Lokan Forest Reserve to Batu Putih is range bwteen RM50 to 60 million.