KOTA KINABALU: The Bornean elephants in this state deserve proper and aggressive conservation measures for them to survive as a viable component of Sabah’s mega fauna, said Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew.
Liew who is also Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister said this is especially true now, since there has been an increasing threat of habitat loss and fragmentation, besides a growing human population with the need for more land for agriculture and homesteads.
The minister said human-wildlife conflict in Sabah is at a critical level with more than 140 elephants killed in less than 10 years, and a very high number of them occurred in these conflict areas with more than half either shot or due to suspected poisoning, while the rest appear to be natural causes of death.
“Elephant poaching has also been on the increase with quite a number of arrests made of smugglers trying to smuggle elephant tusks across the Malaysian – Indonesian border,” Liew said this in her speech at the welcoming dinner for participants of the 10th Asian Elephant Specialist Group Meeting here, tonight.
Her speech text was read out by Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Assafal P. Alian.
In Sabah, Liew said, the Bornean elephants are currently totally protected under Part 1 of Schedule 1, Section 25(1) of the Totally Protected Animals under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment (WCE) 1997 of the state and any offence related to this species warrants a fine of up to RM250,000 and a prison sentence of not less than five years.
She said Sabah have since 2016 strengthened the state’s wildlife laws through the WCE 1997 and her ministry is willing to amend as well as further tighten the penalties under the Enactment if hunting or killing of pygmy elephants and other protected wildlife can’t be stopped.
Liew said the Sabah Wildlife Department has also completed the final draft of the Elephant Management Action Plan 2020-2030, which will be tabled to the State Cabinet early next year and once this has passed cabinet approval, the State government through her ministry will implement all the steps outlined in the action plan.
However, cooperation from all parties is essential in order to ensure the implementation could be achieved, she added.
She also hoped the Asian Elephant Specialist Group, an International mix of Asian Elephant Experts from 22 countries, including the top government wildlife officials from the 13 range countries, can assist Sabah and advise the state on the best practices of Asian Elephants management.
“Do share your vast experience in dealing with human-elephant conflicts in your respective countries,” she said.