Call to boost efforts to protect pygmy elephants

13 Aug 2020 / 12:46 H.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians may soon see the last of jumbos unless there is political will to help them survive.

The elephant is a protected species, but not enough is being done to ensure they do not go extinct, according to environmentalist Gurmit Singh.

For instance, he said, the Borneo pygmy elephant is listed as endangered and accorded protection under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment.

“However, we are not giving them adequate protection,” he told theSun in conjunction with World Elephant Day yesterday.

“Although some effort has been made to ensure their survival, political will is essential to keep them safe,” he added.

The Borneo pygmy elephant is a sub-species of the Asian elephant and the smallest on the continent.

Gurmit, who is chairman of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development, Malaysia, said it was still unclear what caused the premature deaths of pygmy elephants.

“It could be a question of insufficient wildlife enforcement officers. Nonetheless, the government should be committed to ensuring the protection of wildlife.”

To address the problem, he said the federal government should fund efforts by the state to protect the pachyderm.

“Conservation cannot be managed without funding,” he pointed out.

“Anyone can issue a statement, but the impact on the ground still lies with enforcement agencies and private entities. Our mindset must change,” he added.

Gurmit said the federal and state governments must show their commitment towards conservation to preserve wildlife for future generations.

Data from shows there are about 1,500 pygmy elephants left in the wild.

The primary threat to them is loss of habitat mostly through human encroachment such as the clearing of land for agriculture or infrastructure development.

They are no longer able to take their traditional migration routes, and in Sabah it is estimated that 20% of elephants have been wounded by traps.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia suggested that suitable habitat reserves for elephants and passageways for them to traverse areas with man-made infrastructure safely could be the answer.

Its president, Meenakshi Raman, said special viaducts or overpasses could be built across highways to enable the elephants to move from one part of the jungle to another without obstruction.

She noted there are now four such viaducts specially designed to enable elephants to move about freely from one area of the jungle to another.

Three of them are located in Terengganu. One has been built across the Arang-Kuala Berang Highway, the second in the Tembat Forest Reserve and the third in Taman Negara, the country’s national park.

The fourth viaduct was built to connect two major forests, the Titiwangsa-Bintang-Nakawan Range and Taman Negara-Timur Range, which are separated by the Kuala Lipis-Merapoh road.

Read this story in theSun’s iPaper:

Call to boost efforts to protect pygmy elephants

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