Monday, November 5, 2012

Plantations, floodings reduce elephant habitat

 KOTA KINABALU: The forests inhabited by the elephants in the Kinabatangan are shrinking because they are converted for agriculture such as palm oil plantations.

A recently published study in the scientific journal Public Library of Science One (PLoS 1) looked closely at this situation, using a modeling approach to determine the size of habitat actually available to the elephants in the Kinabatangan.

This study was carried out by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), Cardiff University and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), the NGO HUTAN and Antioch University New England (USA).

Dr Marc Ancrenaz, co-director of the NGO HUTAN and one of the leading authors of the study said: "Although more than 45,000 ha of forests were protected in Lower Kinabatangan, our analysis shows that only 19,000 ha are being used by the elephants. These elephants use the protected and unprotected riverine habitat up and down the Lower Kinabatangan between Batu Puteh and Abai. Furthermore, during flooding events, only 6,500 ha of forest are accessible to the elephants."

"This study clearly shows that elephants do not have much choice but to find refuge in the palm oil estates surrounding their habitat, especially during the rainy season," said Dr Benoit Goossens, director of Danau Girang Field Centre and a co-author of the paper.

Goossens added they had been collecting satellite data of more than 10 individuals since 2008 and they confirmed that elephants were spending more time in the palm oil plantations than five years ago.

Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun asked for a moratorium on any new land development in the Kinabatangan floodplain during the closing remarks of the Sabah Orang-utan Conservation Dialogue held in Kota Kinabalu last week.

"Elephants are one of the most important tourism attractions in the State. This study shows that such a moratorium is not only needed to protect orang-utans but also to ensure the long-term survival of elephants in Kinabatangan.

"As previously identified by my department, we need to enlarge the network of protected forests in the Lower Kinabatangan by creating contiguous corridors of natural habitat along the river. The state government and partners also need to identify a way to allow elephants to travel across the Lahad Datu-Sandakan highway that blocks their migration route. Last but not least, elephants are fully protected by the laws of Sabah. I urge the palm oil industry and other land users to mitigate conflicts in ways that do not harm the animals," added Ambu.



Anonymous said...

Asian elephants Elephas maximus, have smaller ears, usually only the males have visible tusks, their skin is not as wrinkly, they only have one "finger" at the ends of their trunks, and their backs are dome-shaped.

Anonymous said...

Both African and Asian elephants live in close social groups called herds. A herd is usually made up of related females, called cows, and their offspring. The leader of the herd is called the matriarch.

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