By THE BORNEOTODAY TEAM
LAHAD DATU: It was as if the Bornean Elephants wanted to make a statement.
“You trespass and destroy our natural grazing grounds, we won’t be standing still. We will fight back.”
But of course the elephants can’t speak, so they did what comes best to them.
For about a week, two lost bulls from a herd of Bornean elephants caused a good amount of disturbance in Kampung Jawa, which is less than 2km from the nearest town, Bandar Sri Perdana.
The two bulls reportedly destroying a good chunk of the villagers’ crops, namely oil palm trees, bananas, coconuts, papaya etc and had a good feast.
“But when the elephants came very close to the villagers houses, it frightened them and caused them to panic as this was the first time elephants had entered the area,” said Dr Sen Nathan, Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director.
‘’I directed a team from Wildlife Rescue Unit with assistance from SWD Lahad Datu Office to conduct search for the bulls and do an immediate translocation to prevent further damage, and more importantly, for the safety of the villagers.”
After 5 days of intensive tracking, the WRU team led by Dr Laura Benedict, Assistant Manager and Wildlife Veterinarian from WRU, managed to capture the two bull elephants and eventually translocated them back to Kawag Forest Reserve.
“We are very thankful to the villagers, smallholders and Ultimate Reserve Group (Lahad Datu Quarry) for their assistance throughout the 7-day operation,” said Dr Benedict.
“It was definitely not an easy job due to the geographical area but we managed to conclude the translocation successfully through team work from all involved, directly or indirectly.”
Dr Diana Ramirez, Acting Manager of WRU said this is the first time wild elephants from the Danum Valley had made its way so close to Lahad Datu township (Bandar Seri Perdana).
“This is probably because much of the land area between Danum Valley and Seri Perdana has been opened up for human dwelling, fruit orchards and oil palm plantations,” she said.
“We will see more of these kind of elephant intrusions closer and closer to Lahad Datu town as more areas between Danum and the town limits are cleared making easy access for these elephants to travel.”
This is not the first time Lahad Datu faced such human-elephant conflict.
In 2013 the Wildlife Department had to translocate 10 elephants from Bikang, and more recently two years ago, 24 elephants were translocated stretching from Kg Sri Putatan to Kg Binuang, which are all located less than 10km from Lahad Datu town centre.
According to Dr Sen, this is a clear sign that wildlife are fighting back, and things could “probably get worse before they get better”.