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A recent attack on a woman by a Borneo Pygmy bull elephant in Kampung Gambaron in Telupid has forced the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) to beef up its operation to capture and translocate these animals.
SWD director William Baya said the move was necessary since human-elephant conflicts had recently shown a rapid increase, especially in its habitats in the Central and South Eastern parts of Sabah.
These areas encompass the districts of Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Beluran, Lahad Datu, Tawau, Nabawan and Pensiangan.
“We believe the reason for this rapid upsurge in the number of conflicts is due to increasing fragmentation and nett loss of suitable elephant habitats, coupled with a nett increase in elephant population statewide.”
Baya added based on a survey in 2008, there were about 2,000 elephants throughout the state.
He said efforts were being undertaken to find a solutions and better manage the present elephant population as well as their habitats.
“Even translocating them to other areas does not serve as a permanent solution as we have documented proof that translocated elephants have made their way back to original habitats and caused more problems.
“We will be working with other stakeholders, namely Sabah Forestry Department, the Telupid District Office and environmental non-governmental organisations to come up with a sound solution to this problem.”
On Thursday, an adult Borneo Pygmy bull elephant, about 7.5 feet in height, attacked a woman in Kampung Gambaron, about 2km from Telupid Town, while she was walking to work with her husband.
In the 6.20am incident, the victim, identified as Justina Ompang, 57, and her husband, Khunyan Basimah, 40, were walking out of their home when they came across the bull elephant standing by the roadside.
According to Khunyan, they were quite used to seeing these elephants, which would normally run back into the forest when approached by people.
“But something odd happened that morning. Instead of running away, it charged at us and started using its trunk to knock Justina.
“I started shouting to distract the elephant and it worked, as the animal immediately stopped attacking my wife and ran back into the forest,” said Khunyan, relating the ordeal.
The couple were then taken to the Telupid Hospital for emergency medical treatment. Justina suffered shock and bruises on her upper torso. Since X-rays showed that there were no fractures or internal injuries, the couple were discharged the same day.
Meanwhile, SWD assistant director Dr Sen Nathan described the capturing and translocating of elephants as “an expensive operation”, costing between RM20,000 to RM30,000 per elephant.
He added the SWD and the Wildlife Rescue Unit personnel were working round the clock to chase the elephants back into the forest as part of efforts to protect villages.
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