WWF is concerned about the recent pygmy elephant deaths in the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve.
“WWF is providing support to the Sabah Wildlife Department and is part of the special taskforce that has been set up by the Department to further investigate the matter. Our patrolling teams worked closely with the Department in unearthing the incident,” said WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius S K Sharma.
According to reports, all the deaths have happened in areas where forests are being converted for plantations within the permanent forest reserves.
“The central forest landscape in Sabah needs to be protected totally from conversions. All conversion approvals need to be reviewed by the Sabah Forestry Department and assessed not purely from commercial but the endangered species and landscape ecology perspectives,” Dr Dionysius said.
Holistic long-term solutions need to be put in place to address and mitigate the problem, Dr Dionysius said. He said that elephants need to be elevated to a ‘totally protected’ status under Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment of Sabah, which has been recommended in the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Elephant Action Plan 2012 – 2016, but has yet to be implemented.
“Frequent and large scale patrolling is critical to avoid such conflict from happening again. However, given the vast area that requires patrolling, it is a massive task for the Sabah Wildlife Department. More resources, including manpower, hardware and finances, should be allocated to the Department. The existing honorary wildlife warden program of the Department is doing well and should be expanded,” Dr Dionysius said.
(Source: WWF press release, 30.01.2013)