MPOC / SWD Human – Wildlife Conflict Workshop ‘Enhancing Conservation and Mitigating Human-Wildlife Conflicts’


22 – 23 November 2016
FourPoints by Sheraton, Sandakan, Sabah.

MPOC, in collaboration with Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) recently organised a biodiversity conservation workshop in Sandakan, Sabah. This is MPOC’s second event on human-wildlife conflicts in 2016, with the first being the MPOC-PERHILITAN biodiversity forum in May 2016.

With the theme ‘Enhancing Conservation and Mitigating Human-Wildlife Conflicts’, the workshop provided a platform for concerned stakeholders in Sabah to share their concerns and constraints in dealing with human wildlife conflicts, especially human-elephant conflicts faced by oil palm plantations. The second objective of the workshop was to facilitate stakeholders’ feedbacks, in order to assist SWD in their drafting of the 2017-2021 Bornean Elephant Action Plan. A total of 7 papers were presented by various stakeholders including state wildlife department representatives, NGOs and plantation company.

Paper 1: Human Wildlife Conflicts in Sabah: Current Status & Overview
Dr. Laura Benedict (Sabah Wildlife Department)

Dr. Laura Benedict of Sabah Wildlife Department presented a paper on “Human Wildlife Conflicts in Sabah: Current Status & Overview”. The paper summarizes the current condition and impacts of human-wildlife conflicts on wildlife conservation specifically in the state of Sabah. Some of the challenges in dealing with conflicts and several recommendations were also discussed as a the way forward.

The management of wildlife of Sabah comes under the purview of the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), which is under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment of Sabah. SWD is responsible for implementation and administration of the Sabah Widlife Conservation Enactment 1997.

Human-wildlife conflict is summarised as the interaction between wild animals and people which results in negative impact on both parties affecting people, resources,  animals and habitat. This is due to expansion of human population and shrinking of natural habitat, space and food supply. Human-wildlife conflict may leave long term negative impact;

  • Injury or loss of human lives
  • Injury or loss of animal lives
  • Damage to crop
  • Livestock depredation
  • Predation of managed wildlife stock
  • Damage to property
  • Destruction of habitat
  • Decrease of wildlife populations

Sabah, is well-known for its rich biodiversity and has more than 200 species of  mammals, around 540 species of birds and about 100 species of reptiles. Among these, there are eight totally protected mammals (Sumatran rhinoceros, orang utan, sun bear, Banteng, proboscis monkey, clouded leopard, dugong and bornean elephant) and 3 totally protected reptiles (false gharial, green turtle and hawksbill turtle). Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) manages conflicts by several methods or practices;

  • Rescue and Translocation
    – Wild to wild
    – Captive
  • Culling
  • Land use planning collaboration efforts
  • Educational and Awareness program

The most frequent of human-wildlife conflicts in Sabah is caused by the Macaque. Major areas of conflict includes Beaufort, Kota Kinabalu, Kota Belud, Tawau and Sandakan. These primates are translocated after being caught by Life Trapping (using Metal Trap or Net Trap) or Free Darting. Due to safety issues, Macaques are safely translocated to other vicinity where they are released to thrive in the wild. Since 2010 – 2016, WRU has translocated 1,450 macaques.

Bornean Elephant
Increased encounters of elephants has been reported in agricultural farms, plantations and village settlements. These occurences are in the vicinity across all elephant habitat in Sabah with Tawau, Telupid, Lahad Datu and Kinabatangan and remains as the major conflict area. Rescue and translocation is still the most effective way in dealing with conflicts with wild elephants. The establishment of Bornean Elephant Wildlife Sanctuary (BEWS) in Kinabatangan for rescued, displaced and orphaned elephants enables rehabilitation before being released back to a wildlife sanctuary. This was established with funding from MPOC, Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) Japan, Asahiyama Zoo, Saraya Corporation and others. SWD in collaboration with DGFC and WWF also conducts research on elephants movement and distribution through satellite tagging for research purposes. The population of the Bornean elephant is estimated at 2,040 in 2012.

Estuarine Crocodile
Another species which is also involved in human-wildlife conflict is the estuarine crocodile. Major conflict area includes Kota Kinabalu, Paitan and Kinabatangan. Crocodiles poses risk to human life and may affect plantation workers as they wander around during heavy downpour and flooding period. When the flood subsides they get trapped in drains and water canals and may come into contact with human. Currently, many crocodiles are rescued and translocated to a sanctuary through life trapping or manual capture. In certain cases, they were culled in the interest of human safety. Crocodiles are also being studied via satellite tracking devices in collaboration with DGFC.

Bornean Orangutan
The Bornean orangutan gets a lot of attention from the media and NGOs. There are cases of Orangutan coming into contact with humans especially with plantation workers working in a farm / plantation surrounding the pockets of forest which they inhibit. Upon notification, the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) rescues and translocates these primates to a suitable sanctuary. Members which are injured or orphaned will be cared at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre before released back to the wild. The Orangutan population in Sabah is estimated at 11,000 as of 2012. The habitat is within the fully protected forest reserves which had increased from 40% to 85%.

Other wildlife which are rescued and translocated includes;

  • Sun bear
  • Snakes
  • Leopard
  • Proboscis monkey
  • Gibbon
  • Turtle
  • Pangolin

The establishment and management of habitat connectivity becomes more important to enable wildlife to move freely between fragmented forest. This has been at the forefront of species management plans, particularly for elephants. Human-wildlife conflict is an universal problem and requires collective effort to mitigate.

Review by: Anthony K.Veerayan, Manager, SED

This presentation was presented during “MPOC / SWD Human – Wildlife Conflict Workshop” held on 22 – 23 November 2016 at FourPoints by Sheraton, Sandakan, Sabah. For the complete presentation, please click the link provided.

Human-Wildlife Conflicts in Sabah – Current Status and Overview


download_pdf Dr. Laura Benedict,
Sabah Wildlife Department

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