JOHOR BARU: Work on the first phase of the RM15mil Johor Elephant Sanctuary is underway and will provide a safe home for about 15 elephants.
Johor Health, Environment, Information and Education Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said a contractor was appointed in May to start work on the 100ha project.
“The first phase will see about 15 elephants being housed in the sanctuary located along Jalan Lombong, not far from the Kota Tinggi waterfall, where the wild animals can roam freely,” he said.
He said the first phase was scheduled for completion at the end of next year and with that, help improve the conflict between wild elephants and humans in Kluang and Kota Tinggi.
He added that the sanctuary would also doubled as a tourism attraction for nature lovers to get close to the elephants.
“Johor’s vast forests are habitats to about 140 wild elephants where Segamat, Kluang, Mersing and Kota Tinggi are their stomping grounds,” he said.
The rapid developments and deforestation leading to the shrinking of the wild animals’ natural habitat have caused the animals to enter villages in search of food, creating conflicts with humans.
Ayub said the state received 75 complaints from residents and villagers of wild elephants encroaching into their farms and villages from January to May this year.
The highest complaints came from Kluang and Kota Tinggi with Kampung Sri Lukut and Mawai respectively being the most affected villages, he said.
The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) received an average 181 complaints from villagers and the agricultural industry each year from 2011 to 2016 with damages amounting to about RM1.2mil annually.
Ayub said since 2008 to May this year, Perhilitan transferred 48 wild elephants out of Kluang alone and each transfer process cost about RM50,000.
Ayub said Perhilitan also gave out 100 special flashlights to villagers of Kampung Sri Lukut last week to be installed at agricultural areas and villages to prevent the elephants from entering.
“The flashlights will light up when motion is detected and deter the elephants from going near as the wild animals are afraid of bright lights,” he added.
One of the steps taken by Perhilitan to reduce the conflict was installing electric fence, costing about RM717,000 which passes through the Lenggor, Mersing and Labis forest reserves.
Ayub said, however, that some parts of the fence were partly cut and damaged by irresponsible hunters.
“When elephants enter our villages and farms, we are quick to put the blame on the animals when in reality, humans are the ones entering and destroying their natural habitat,” he said.