Elephants destroy 7,584 oil palm trees at Felda Sahabat

LAHAD DATU: Herds of elephants which were reported to have encroached into oil palm plantations in Felda Sahabat 2, Tungku, near here, since last week, have destroyed some 7,584 oil palm trees in the area.

Lahad Datu Wildlife Department (JHL) officer Silvester Saimin said the incident was personally reported by the plantation manager in the area who revealed a loss of RM700,000.

“The damage is expected to increase if not tackled, hence efforts must be undertaken to chase out the estimated 60 elephants from the Felda plantations.

“Three groups of elephants, namely, the Pelita, the Cenderawasih and the Tungku groups from the Tabin Wildlife Reserve have encroached into the Felda plantations,” he said when met by reporters here.

According to Silvester, the Borneo Pygmy elephants tended to encroach into the plantations from the Tabin Wildlife Reserve only 10 kilometres away as food was readily available from farming activities.

“Among the agricultural activities are replanting of oil palm trees in most plantations, slicing up old oil palm trees including the cultivation of cash crops.

“Along the route, there are many plantations. The elephants are attracted by the activities at the plantations which led the three groups of elephants to intrude until the plantations at Felda Sahabat,” he said.

He hoped that, with the deployment of eight JHL members in co-operation with the settlers, they could drive the elephants out of the plantations to their original habitat.

Currently, he said, the elephants were found raiding the Felda plantations only at night, looking for food, while in the daytime they were found to be in other plantations.

“This may be influenced by the hot weather and the animals are seeking shelter in plantations with taller oil palm trees,” he said.

In this regard, the Lahad Datu JHL had asked each plantation owner to report their plantation’s activities to facilitate the monitoring of elephant intrusion into their plantations.

It also held a briefing and tutoring session to enable settlers to take effective action in the efforts to drive away elephants from the area.

“These include installing blue lights, electric fences and creating a din with engines to frighten away the elephants,” he said.