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KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, alarmed by the sudden spike of Bornean pygmy elephant deaths, has ordered for fresh initiatives to be worked out in a bid put an end to these senseless deaths.

“It is shocking to read in media reports that 25 elephants have died within eight months this year.

“I am gravely concerned with these deaths as this is an iconic animal of Sabah, and we have to use everything in our power to put an end to this senseless deaths broadly blamed under human-elephant conflict,” he said.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal. SNT File Pix

Shafie said he had ordered for the fresh initiatives that should include an all-out effort by all relevant agencies to work together with people living in human-elephant conflict zones by way of educating them in tackling problems of elephant intrusion in villages, farms and plantations.

“I have ordered two state ministers – Tourism, Culture, Environment Minister Christina Liew Agriculture and Food Industry Junz Wong – to hold special meetings with plantation owners in known elephant habitats so they can engage their workers to help with the fight against poaching and killing in their areas,” he said in a statement here Thursday.

According to him, plantation workers have shown that they were responsible when they reported unusual activities like stray baby elephants or snared elephants before.

Therefore, he said as people who are constantly on the ground, they would be most effective in rooting out these criminal elements seeking to gain from illegal activities.

Shafie said plantation owners and farmers should make the effort to remove snare traps placed in their areas by hunters too.

The Chief Minister warned that it is a crime to hurt or kill elephants in Sabah as they are totally protected by the law.

However, since enforcement agencies cannot cover the grounds needed to expose these criminal elements he hoped that the people of Sabah will be vigilant and lend their eyes and ears to the protection of these elephants.

“At the same time, I understand the plight of our farmers and planters as they have to protect their land against wildlife foraging in their farms.

“While they have every right to protect their farmland from intruders, including wild animals, they have no right to kill these assets of ours,” he said.

Shafie said the human-wildlife conflict cannot be made as an excuse to kill, snare or poison these animals as the state government wanted to ensure their conservation in order for our future generations to continue enjoy seeing Bornean elephants roaming in the wild.

The Sabah Wildlife Department was also directed to set up a HOTLINE number and make it available to those living in human-elephant conflict zones thus enabling quicker action to stop possible conflicts.

At the same time, Shafie hoped the linking of fragmented forests to pave the way for the animal corridors in the East Coast could be expedited.

“I am aware of the need for forest corridors to link fragmented forests in the east coast Sabah, I hope we can fast track it through the help of NGOs because the state government is ready to facilitate,” he said.

Shafie declined to point finger as to who should be blamed but as responsible citizens, he said it was only that we help in whichever way possible to ensure the elephant population survives.

“For all of us in Sabah whether it is the orangutan, proboscis monkey or the elephants they are part of our rich wildlife heritage that we must preserve for generations to come.

“It is an important tourism revenue earner with huge economic spin-offs for rural Sabah,” he said.

The Chief Minister was sad to note that the wildlife in particular the Bornean pygmy elephant population was dwindling at a rapid pace if the deaths this year alone were an indication of things to come.

“I am told that there are a mere 1,500 to 2,500 elephants left in the wild and this is worrying to all of us as they could go extinct in a few decades,” he said.

“This effort to conserve cannot be left in the hands of the government and NGOs, the people –farmers, villagers, and plantation owners and their workers – have to cooperate in the fight against the problem with wildlife poaching.

“All Sabahans are the custodians of these gentle giants and that it is the civic duty of all citizens to report any criminal activities that threaten the elephants.

“It is time for all Sabahans to be collectively responsible for the protection of our endangered Bornean elephants before we wake up one day and suddenly realise that we have irretrievably lost a precious gift that Mother Nature bestowed on us,” he said.-SabahNewsToday


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