KOTA KINABALU: Displaced and injured elephants will have a new place to call home in the Bornean Elephant Sanctuary (BES) which will be officially launched tomorrow.
The first phase of the project, which started in October last year, was completed on June 28, and a juvenile female elephant has become the first “guest”.
Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said it would not have been possible without the assistance of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), the project’s main sponsor, and Japanese partners led by Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) Japan.
Besides funding from the state government, MPOC has pledged RM5.2 million for the project, of which RM500,000 was used in phase one. BCT Japan and its 12 corporate partners, including Asahiyama Zoo and Saraya Corporation, have provided RM1.6 million in funds for the first phase.
BES, located at Lot 8 of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, covers 1,214ha with a built-up area of 25 ha. The development is expected to be completed in the next two to three years.
“The total infrastructure cost is about RM30 million, while the overall master plan, which includes the setting up of the ecological corridor between Segaliud Lokan Forest Reserve and Batu Putih, costs between RM50 million to RM60 million,” he told a press conference here yesterday.
He said staff for the first phase comprised six keepers with two each from BCT, Wildlife Rescue Unit, which is funded by MPOC and SWD. They are led by a senior ranger.
“In the long run, BES will also house other wildlife affected by human conflict.”
MPOC deputy chief executive officer Dr Kalyana Sundram said they had started collaborating with SWD on several projects under the council’s Wildlife Conservation Fund formed six years ago. These included the orang utan and rescue unit.
He said the BES project fitted with their conservation programme as elephants tend to wander into plantations and they wanted the animals to be safely translocated.
Saraya Corp president Yusuke Saraya, who represented BCT Japan, said the company, which produces eco-friendly solvents and detergents using palm kernel, was proud to be involved in the project to show a balance in taking care of conservation while benefiting from the oil palm industry.
Laurentius estimated that there were 60 to 200 elephants currently displaced in different pockets of areas in Tawau, Sandakan and other remote areas in Sabah, while 30 or more could be injured due to trapping devices like snares and pest control activities by plantations.
“Once BES starts moving, we expect a lot of calls for us to help with displaced and injured animals,” he said, adding that the public could call any Wildlife Department office.
On the 10 Borneo pygmy elephants found dead near Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, Tawau, between last December and January, he said they were still working with the police to identify the culprits.
A Borneo pygmy elephant with its baby. Sixty to 200 of the pachyderms are displaced in Sabah.