REPORTS of orphaned Borneo pygmy elephants being rescued by the Sabah Wildlife department surface every now and then. These baby elephants were lost while their mothers were nowhere to be seen.
There have been 22 elephants rescued in the past seven years, but many cannot survive, with a mortality rate of 50 per cent.
All signs point to assaults on their habitats, painting a dismal picture of the future of elephants in Sabah.
Shrinking forest cover and large-scale encroachment on elephant corridors are the factors behind this problem.
The last decade has seen the destruction of forests, something that has caused a direct fallout in the form of growing elephant depredations and the resultant number of orphans.
Elephants may soon disappear because of habitat destruction and fragmentation by plantation agencies, palm oil developers and logging industries.
When elephants come into conflict with humans, it is a battle in which the gentle animals are destined to lose.
While those responsible for land clearance are aware of elephants coming into conflict and the fatalities that may arise, the problem has rendered the elephant as the enemy.
An analysis of the situation will expose humans as being responsible for the sorry situation.
Workers may have resorted to poisoning, killing and poaching, while the reasons behind the increasing elephant orphans could not be exactly established.
Driven out of their habitat by human-induced factors, elephants fall prey to accidents.
Conservationists have said elephants have been forced to come out into the open because of shrinking habitats.
Their once pristine forests are being destroyed and degraded by human activities, along with population growth biting into their refuge. The solution to the man-elephant conflict lies in rectifying and undoing wrongs of the past decades.
Those responsible for taking away the habitats of elephants have to admit their mistakes, accept their faults and work to ensure long-term management.
Measures that can be taken for long-term management are to consolidate good habitats and manage elephants falling outside these habitats.
One approach is to demarcate these habitats as elephant reserves, while another is to secure elephant corridors between these habitats.
But, given the ravages of land by plantation agencies, the question is: Is there any space left for Borneo elephants?
Sahabat Alam Malaysia has called on the oil palm industry and other land agencies to rectify the situation rather than pay lip service to rehabilitation efforts.
Oil palm plantation companies should create and run a protection system of conservation in their concession areas, and assist the Sabah Wildlife Department to arrest workers convicted of poisoning or killing elephants.
The best way to address this in the short term is through better law enforcement, to show that Sabah’s wildlife laws are being taken seriously.
The government and wildlife authorities should focus law enforcement initiatives on deforested areas. Such initiatives need to be scaled up.
The absence of law enforcement will only make crimes and brutality against elephants continue, with increasing numbers of dead and orphaned elephants.
The right to live and having a living area are not privileges exclusive to humans. Space should be secured for elephants and people to live in perpetuity.
S.M. MOHD IDRIS,
President, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Penang