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115 jumbos killed to date
Published on: Tuesday, December 04, 2018
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Kota Kinabalu: Some 115 Bornean elephants have been killed between 2010 and this year, and most of these deaths occurred in palm oil plantations or forest reserves in close vicinity to plantations.

Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Assafal Alian said half of these deaths were caused by suspected poisoning or gunshot wounds.

"Despite this, there is no concrete evidence that plantations are to be blamed," he said during the opening of the 1st Sabah Scientific Community Forum, here, recently.

"Paradoxically, neither are they blameless. To address this escalating elephant mortality, as a last resort the State Government is strongly contemplating implementing a strict liability policy in which landowners including plantations will be held accountable for any elephant deaths.

"As elephants and other wildlife species increasingly use the palm oil landscape, there is an urgent and critical need for serious dialogue and engagement with the palm oil industry to better manage human-wildlife conflicts."

He said, a win-win solution must be drawn for wildlife conservation, possibly supported and assisted by the Malaysian palm oil industry and Sabah's wildlife scientific community.

"The State Government is very keen to look for solution and explore opportunities where both wildlife and the palm oil industry can co-exist harmoniously.



"So many questions need to be answered. Answers that must be based on scientific facts.

"Much scientific research has been done and is still being undertaken by a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and scientists based in Sabah," he said.

Unfortunately, he said, these results and best practices formulated by all these researches sometimes are not transmitted well to the policy makers and to the palm oil industry, and therefore not incorporated into land use policy planning and, palm oil management practices which could have better benefited wildlife as a whole.

"Sometimes the scientific community do express conflicting views, further confusing wildlife and palm oil managers on what would be the right thing to do."

Towards this end, he said, the 1st Sabah Scientific Community Forum is timely as it brought together Sabah's scientific community together with some of their counterparts from West Malaysia to come up with clear, workable consensual messages about key questions that are usually asked by the palm oil industry and government policy makers.

"The State Government is prepared to be the bridge that links the scientific community and the industry and foster a stronger collaboration between both parties," he said.

The Sabah Scientific Community Forum was co-organised by Sabah Wildlife Department, Danau Girang Field Centre, Hutan, Project Seratu Aatai and WWF-Malaysia and funded by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

During the forum, participants designed a series of recommendations to mitigate possible results of human-wildlife competition in non-protected forests and agricultural landscape.

The underlying message was to create mosaic landscapes where forests are still found within agricultural lands.

In places where the forest has been completely destroyed, efforts to recreate contiguous corridors of natural forest of at least 50 metres wide along all rivers is needed, as well as setting aside stepping stones or continuous corridors across the landscape to support animals' dispersal.

Results of the brainstorming session will be presented and discussed during an international symposium to be organised here, in early next year, that will gather government officials, agro-based plantation industries and scientists. - Ricardo Unto



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