Sabah Chief Minister says, human should learn to co-exist with elephants

By TIN Media | Sabah Published 2 years ago on 8 December 2019
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Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal is pleased with the strong response from the Malaysian palm oil industry to work with the State Government in finding long-term solutions for saving the Bornean elephants in Sabah. He said he would not allow the elephants in Sabah which counts less than 2,000 to face the fate that the Sumatran rhino, whose last likely specimen died from natural causes, a few days ago.

The three-day meeting jointly organized by State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, Sabah Wildlife Department (secretariat), WWF Malaysia, HUTAN, Danau Girang Field Center (DGFC) and Seratu Aatai, is attended by AsESG members, government officials from the 13 Asian elephant range countries, and presenters and observers from nine other 'non-elephant' countries.

He said when opening the (International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) 10th Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) Meeting held at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa, on Thursday that “Saving our elephants is an emergency. I have made the call for all stakeholders, including industries, to join Sabah in this urgent matter. I am pleased to have received a strong response and commitment from the Malaysian palm oil industry to work with the State Government in finding long-term solutions. 

“It is my hope that we, together as government, industry, conservationists and civil society, will have found the direction we all seek, to save the Bornean elephants in Sabah.

“It is not too late to save the Bornean elephants. We must not hesitate to take drastic action and initiate conservation programs that will create an ultimate goal of having a sustainable landscape to support free-ranging breeding populations of elephants in Sabah,”

Proud and honored that Sabah has been chosen by IUCN AsESG as venue for the event, Mohd Shafie said among the states in Malaysia, Sabah has always been at the forefront of wildlife conservation. 

“Having said that though we are not perfect, we do have challenges. Recent years have seen a dramatic escalation in human-wildlife conflict, severely testing the critical balance on land use between wildlife habitats and human-induced activities.  

This is particularly apparent based on events that have occurred in the Bornean elephant population where 145 elephants were reported killed between 2010 and 2019. Most of these deaths occurred in palm oil plantation or forest reserves in close vicinity of plantations. Around half of these deaths were either caused by gunshot wounds or suspected poisoning while quite a number remain unsolved. 

“I sincerely believe that this meeting is the perfect venue to openly discuss and look for pragmatic solutions to address this escalating mortality in Sabah’s elephant population. By sharing experiences, mistakes and best practices on elephant conservation and human-wildlife conflict management, I hope technical support and frank advice can be provided on long-term conservation of the Bornean elephant population in Sabah.” 

“The time has come for us to realize the fact that we must treat elephants with humility and respect. Through land sparing and land sharing we must start to co-exist with our Bornean elephants,” said Mohd Shafie.

He said AsESG is happy to note that the Sabah elephant conservation action plan which is being drafted is almost ready to be tabled to the Sabah Cabinet. 


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