By Mmuguntan Vanar
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is deciding whether to move a herd of Borneo pygmy elephants deep into its central jungles in efforts to ensure the safety of villagers and also to protect the animals.
The translocation of two of the herd’s more aggressive elephants to Dermakot Forest Reserve was completed over the last two days.
Now, wildlife rangers are studying the possibility of relocating the remaining 17 jumbos.
According to State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, the relocation would protect the elephants as well as villagers and plantations that they encroached into.
A herd of about 30 elephants prowled into orchards and farms belonging to villagers at Kampung Bauto in Telupid, about 300km from here, last week.
Sabah Wildlife Department rangers were able to calm the herd after they tranquilised two “aggressive” females that were later restrained with chains.
The two females were relocated to the Dermakot forest 80km away after rangers fitted them with GPS collars.
Within the last week, at least 10 elephants returned to the Tangkalup forest, while 17 other elephants stayed around. (Tangkalup is linked to the Dermakot Forest Reserve.)
There have been concerns raised by conservationists over human-elephant conflict due to the shrinking natural habitat of the endangered pygmy elephants.
According to Datuk Laurentius Ambu, director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, human-elephant conflict had been on the rise over the last three years.
He also reminded villagers and plantations that they should not kill the protected elephants.
In January last year, a total of 14 elephants were found dead by poisoning in the Gunung Rara forest reserve area.