Saving the Wild Elephants of Peninsular Malaysia
Elephants used to roam throughout the whole of Peninsular Malaysia. At present, only seven states in the peninsular still have isolated populations of elephants, with an estimated total of 1200 to 1500 individuals1.
The major causes of decline are forest clearance, land conversion for agriculture, and urban development. Roads cut off many travel routes and isolate elephant feeding grounds. So elephants are forced to encroach on human settlements and agricultural areas in search of food. This results in crop and property damage, and sometimes injury or death of humans. Affected people often want elephants to be translocated and may set out to kill problem elephants.
Why we need elephants
Elephants play an important role in maintaining the quality of our ecosystems and for the survival of other species:
Where we work
We are currently working in the Endau-Rompin landscape in Peninsular Malaysia, straddling the border of Pahang and Johor. These uplands are an important catchment area for several rivers.
What we do
WCS Malaysia works with the Federal and State Department of Wildlife and National Parks to help to conserve wild elephants in the their habitats. WCS Malaysia believes that elephants and humans should co-exist in this landscape.
Elephant population counts
The first rigorous elephant population count in Peninsular Malaysia was carried out in Taman Negara early in 2007. The survey covered an area of 4,343 sq km using the CITES-MIKE Dung Decay Survey Method. Results indicated that 631 elephants remain in Taman Negara, making it the largest population of elephants known in Southeast Asia.
In the following year, field teams from WCS and Johor National Parks Corporation conducted the elephant count survey in the Endau-Rompin National Park and adjoining forest blocks, covering a total area of 2,500 sq km. An estimated 135 elephants live in the area during the survey period in 2008.
Elephant trail network survey
In mid-2012, we started recording elephant trails around villages where elephants encroach into the crop and settlement areas, to map the areas and routes currently used by elephants.
Monitoring the effectiveness of electric fencing
The government and commercial plantations have put up electric fences to keep out elephants. From mid 2011 to early 2012 our field teams walked along the electric fences to check on fence maintenance and gaps, and elephant signs along the fence.
We found that success of electric fencing depended on:
Mitigating conflict between humans and elephants
Since 2008, we have worked on ways to reduce human-elephant conflict. Some of the activities included:
Training in specialist techniques
Several training workshops have been conducted since 2007 in connection with our field activities, including:
Development of the National Elephant Conservation Action Plan (NECAP)
We have been invited by the Government to help develop the National Elephant Conservation Action Plan (NECAP). The Action Plan will address the threats to elephants and measures protect them for the future.
Several consultation workshops have taken place to discuss implementation, and a multi-agency stakeholder workshop with 70 participants was conducted in late 2012. The Action Plan is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.
1 Saaban, S., Othman, N., Yasak, M.N., Nor, B.M., Zafir, A. & Campos-Arceiz, A. (2011). Current Status of Asian Elephants in Peninsular Malaysia. Gajah 35(9):67-75
Text by Su Li Khing|
Page updated 28 Oct 2013 by Mike Meredith