‘Think of elephants when developing Lahad Datu’


PETALING JAYA: A wildlife expert has urged the Sabah state government to consider the interest of elephants when approving and carrying out development projects.

Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham Malaysia’s School of Environmental Science, told FMT that fragmentation of forests would often cause elephants to wander into open areas for food.

He was responding to a report in The Star that quoted a Sabah Wildlife Department official as saying the opening up of more forests around Lahad Datu was expected to result in an increase in human encounters with wildlife, including elephants.

“The state government must work closely with local wildlife experts, and Sabah is home to some very knowledgeable experts,” said Campos-Arceiz.

“The government should ensure that the movement and habitat of the elephants that live in Sabah’s forests are taken into account so that no untoward incidents occur. The whole idea is to co-exist.”

The Star report followed an incident in Kampung Jawa, near Lahad Datu, on March 19, when two bull elephants damaged oil palm crops and ate fruits grown by villagers.

The elephants were tracked down after a five-day search and were moved to the Kawag forest reserve last Sunday.

In August last year, Campos-Arceiz spoke about elephant-human interactions during a dialogue session in Shah Alam that was held in conjunction with Elephant Day.

He said then that such interactions didn’t always turn out well for elephants because some people would lose their tolerance towards the animals following incidents of conflict. He spoke of retaliatory killings of crop-raiding elephants.