KOTA KINABALU: A bull elephant that injured a villager in Telupid district will be sent for behaviour observation before state wildlife officials decide on its fate.
The bull however, is still free.
Sabah Wildlife Department Assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said a team of wildlife rangers were still tracking down the elephant in the jungle around Kampung Gambaron in Telupid where the incident took place on Thursday.
“We will not translocate the elephant for now. We will place it at the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary in the Kinabatangan area for behaviour observation and then decide what to do with it,” he said yesterday.
The 25ha sanctuary is a natural habitat refuge for elephants with initial phase comprising enclosures, staff quarters and storage areas. The RM1.6mil cost of setting it up was contributed by Japanese firms.
The bull elephant used its trunk to strike 57-year-old Justina Ompang in the upper body when her husband encountered the animal on the roadside near their village.
The couple were used to seeing elephants that would often retreat into the nearby jungle upon seeing them.
On that morning however, the bull elephant charged and attacked Justina.
Khunyan started shouting to distract the elephant and it worked, as the elephant stopped and ran back into the jungle.
Villagers then rushed Justina to the Telupid hospital where she was treated for bruises.
Dr Sen had said that Telupid had become a flashpoint for human-elephant conflicts.
He said recently more than 30 elephants from four different groups have been causing severe damage to the villagers’ crops as well as vehicles and motorcycles there.
He said the Wildlife Department and the Wildlife Rescue Unit personnel have been working round the clock to chase the elephants back into the forest.
He said the department had stepped up its elephant control operation to a full blown capture and translocation programme. He however added it would be an expensive operation as about RM20,000 to RM30,000 was needed to translocate each elephant.
Department director William Baya said human-elephant conflicts had been on the increase in recent years at elephant habitat areas in the central and south eastern parts of Sabah.
“We believe the reason for this is the further increase in fragmentation and loss of suitable elephant habitat, coupled by a probable increase in elephant population statewide,” he said.