Concerted efforts needed against elephant deaths

A victim of a human-elephant conflict
KOTA KINABALU: The Tourism, Culture, Environment Minister Christina Liew and Agriculture and Food Industry Junz Wong were told to hold special meetings with plantation owners in known elephant habitats so they can engage their workers to help with the fight against poaching and killing in their areas.
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Shafie Afdal in a statement today said fresh initiatives would be worked out in a bid to stop the Bornean elephant deaths,
Expressing concern with the sudden spike of Bornean elephant deaths in Sabah, he said initiatives should include an all-out effort by the relevant agencies to work together with the people living in human-elephant conflict zones by way of educating them in tackling problems of elephant intrusion in villages, farms and plantations.
“The plantation workers have shown that they are responsible when they report unusual activities like stray baby elephants or snared elephants. As people who are constantly on the ground, they would be the most effective in rooting criminals who gain from illegal activities.”
Plantation owners and farmers should also make the effort to remove snare traps placed in their areas by hunters he stated adding that elephants in Sabah were totally protected by the law.
“It is a crime to hurt or kill them. Enforcement agencies cannot cover the ground that is needed to expose these criminal elements in our society. I hope that the people of Sabah will be vigilant and lend their eyes and ears to the protection of elephants in Sabah.”
He also stated he empathised with the plight of farmers and planters who had to protect their land against wildlife foraging in their farms.
“While they have every right to protect their farmland from intruders, including wild animals, they have no right to kill these assets of ours. The human-wildlife conflict cannot be an excuse to kill, snare or poison these animals,” he said adding that they were fully protected under the law and the state government wanted to ensure that these animals are conserved.
Sabah Wildlife Department was also directed to make their HOTLINE number available to those living in the human-elephant conflict zones to enable quicker action to stop possible conflicts.
He expressed his shock at media reports that 25 elephants have died within eight months this year.
“The elephants are part of our rich wildlife heritage that we must conserve them for our generations to come. It is an important tourism revenue earner with huge economic spin-offs for rural Sabah. The wildlife in particular the Bornean pygmy elephant is dwindling at a rapid pace if the deaths this year alone are an indication of things to come.”
“I am told that there are a mere 1,500 to 2,500 elephants left in the wild and this is worrying to all of us as they could go extinct in a few decades.”
He said there need to be concerted efforts by all concerned including the government and NGOs, the people –farmers, villagers, and plantation owners and their workers  to fight against wildlife poaching.-pr/BNN