By Julia Chan
Sabah wildlife authorities said today that they have captured the rogue bull elephant that injured a couple in Telupid last weekend and will send the animal to a sanctuary in Kinabatangan.
Sabah Wildlife Department director William Baya said today that the team had been tracking the elephant for three days since the attack in Kampung Gambaron, Telupid, last Friday and finally darted it at 6.20pm last night around Jalan Tongod, some 2km from where the attack occurred.
“We will not translocate this elephant anywhere yet as we are worried that it might pose a similar danger somewhere else,” William told reporters.
“The plan now is to bring it to our newly-built Borneo Elephant Sanctuary where this elephant can be further observed for its behavior before we decide the next course of action,” he added.
The team was looking into signs of musth from the jumbo to indicate its behaviour but according to initial research, no physical signs were found. Musth is a periodical change of elephant bulls’ behaviour, where there is an increase in testosterone levels that leads to aggression.
A 7’6 male Borneo pygmy elephant attacked and injured 57-year-old Justina Ompang who was walking to work with her husband, Khunyan Basimah, 40, last Friday in the Sabah interior region of Telupid.
The incident highlighted the increasing conflicts between local wildlife and human settlements.
Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said the attack was a “serious human-elephant conflict” that is uncharacteristic of the animal, especially since they are a common sight in the village of Kampung Gambaron where the incident happened.
Sen said there has been a trend of human-elephant conflicts in the Telupid district over the past two months, with over 30 elephants from four different groups having thrashed crops and damaged vehicles in at least four villages.
Sen noted that they will likely have no choice but to carry out a “capture and translocation programme” for the rampaging elephants, at the cost of between RM20,000 to RM30,000 per animal.
Such conflicts have rapidly risen due to diminishing elephant habitats in Sabah’s central and south-eastern regions, as well as an increase in the elephant population with an estimated 2,000 elephants statewide.
Translocating the elephants to other areas is not always a viable permanent solution as the elephants can find their way back and cause more conflict in the same area that they were from.
Bornean Elephant Sanctuary, a 1,214 acre facility, is a natural-habitat refuge developed to meet the needs of endangered elephants. It was developed and designed specifically for sick or needy elephants that have been injured due to human and elephant conflict incidents.
It is located at Lot 8 of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary at least 2.5 km from the main Sandakan-Lahad Datu trunk road and was once a key habitat and home for the Bornean elephants in Lower Kinabatangan, but due to rapid land development in early 80s, most of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (From Lot 7 to Lot 10) is not accessible by the elephants.