KOTA KINABALU: The Bornean Elephant Sanctuary (BES) was officially launched on 19th September 2013 by Datuk Masidi Manjun, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah. BES is Sabah’s first and only elephant sanctuary developed to meet the needs of the Bornean elephants, a protected species. The sanctuary was designed specifically to provide refuge for rescued elephants that have been injured or orphaned. The rescued elephants or orphaned elephants will be cared for and rehabilitated before being released back to the wild.
Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) is the major and prime funder for the BES while sharing Sabah Wildlife Department’s vision for wildlife conservation. MPOC has pledged RM5.2 million for the development of BES from its Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund (MPOWCF), of which RM500,000 was used in phase one. Borneo Conservation Trust, BCT Japan and its 12 corporate partners, including Asahiyama Zoo and Saraya Corporation, have also provided RM1.6 million in funds to date.
The first phase of the project, started in October last year, was completed on June 28, and a juvenile female elephant was the first “guest”. BES will become the central hub for elephant conservation and awareness for the general public and visitors to this sanctuary.
BES, located at Lot 8 of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, covers 1,214 hectares with an initial built-up area of 25 hectares. 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. During the first phase, six keepers with two each from BCT, Wildlife Rescue Unit, (which is funded by MPOC) and SWD will manage BES. They are led by a senior ranger. In the long run, BES will also house other wildlife affected by human conflict.
MPOC started collaborating with SWD on several projects through the council’s MPOWCF. These projects included orang utan conservation and the establishment of the wildlife rescue unit. BES also fitted with MPOC’s conservation vision as elephants tend to wander into plantations and need to be safely translocated. Saraya Corp, which produces eco-friendly solvents and detergents using palm products, is involved in the project to demonstrate a balance between conservation and benefiting from the oil palm industry. BES will be another stepping stone to work towards balancing development and biodiversity conservation.