'Switch on your electric fences': Sabah Wildlife director

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia - The use of electric fencing at plantations can help ease human-elephant conflicts, said Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu.

However, he said despite the fact that some big landowners had fenced their estates to avoid crop raiding, many owners still did not switch on the power on their electric fences.

"One of the solutions that plantations can use to avoid crop raiding is electric fencing. However, we are facing increasing conflicts when elephants get into plantations because owners failed to switch on the power. We have advised them but they tend to forget about it.

"Plantation owners should turn on the power because they had spent money to protect their crops with electric fences."

On May 28, the Wildlife Rescue Unit from Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) staff successfully translocated a bull elephant from a plantation near Lahad Datu to Ulu Kalumpang Forest Reserve.

The bull was fitted with a satellite collar and has since been "investigating" his new home.

Experts believe Ulu Kalumpang Forest Reserve, spread over 510sq km, could be a good site for translocating elephants. There are 10 of them there now.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said a team of experts would monitor the movement and migratory patterns of translocated elephants to identify the best areas for conservation and the establishment of elephant corridors.

He stressed that human-elephant conflicts increased due to extensive agriculture such as oil palm plantations which reduced the elephants' habitat as well as that of other wildlife.

"There is a need to better manage the landscape within and around the plantations, by providing routes for wildlife to move from one forest to another."

Goossens added that his team would also develop human-elephant conflict mitigation guidelines for estates established within the Central Sabah Managed Elephant Range.

"We will assist them in the implementation of these guidelines and propose migration routes or corridors within the oil palm estates. For that, we hope oil palm estate owners in the region will give their full cooperation."

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