Sabah’s dwindling Borneo pygmy elephant population is more threatened
by conflict with humans amid forest clearing for agriculture than by
accidental and natural deaths, says a conservationist.
Dr Marc Ancrenaz, who heads the non-governmental organisation Hutan
that works with the state Wildlife Department, said deaths through
poisoning and shooting took a toll every year on the roaming
elephants, which are estimated to number between 1,500 and 2,500.
“Every year, we believe there are quite a number of elephants dying
due to poisoning or being shot dead by people trying to stop them from
destroying their plantations,” he said.
Human-elephant conflict, said Dr Ancrenaz, had become unavoidable
because as large tracts of jungles and forests were cleared for
agricultural and development purposes, these elephants continued to
venture into such areas which were their traditional habitat.
“Our forests are fragmented from (Sabah’s eastern) Kinabatangan to
(southeastern) Kalabakan in Tawau.
“The fragmentation of our forests will continue to create conflict
with villagers and planters because these elephants need to find
food,” he said. “Their isolated forest is not sufficient for their
“We still need more corridors to link the isolated forests for the
elephants to move about and breed,” said Dr Ancrenaz.
He said the accidental deaths of the elephants in the mud pool might
not have happened if those who dug it closed it up after carrying out
their activities in the area.
“It is an irresponsible act,” he said, adding that the area was likely
to be the natural roaming ground for the elephants in the forested
areas of Kalabakan before logging took place.