PRO­TECT­ING OUR GEN­TLE GIANTS

More aware­ness needed to help en­dan­gered species, says WWF Malaysia

New Straits Times - - News | Nation - WAN NOR­LELA WAN SAZALI KUALA LUMPUR news@nst.com.my

ELE­PHANTS are fast dis­ap­pear­ing from the jun­gles in Malaysia due to de­clin­ing habi­tat and poach­ing. Ele­phants are con­sid­ered the world’s most in­tel­li­gent, sen­si­tive an­i­mals and pos­sess both em­pa­thy and self-aware­ness.

Due to the in­creas­ing num­ber of threats caused by human ac­tiv­i­ties, de­vel­op­ment and in­dus­trial mono-crops, their natural habi­tat and mi­gra­tion routes have been frag­mented.

The mam­mals are cat­e­gorised as key­stone species as they cre­ate and main­tain the ecosys­tem. The de­creas­ing num­bers of the mam­mals will greatly af­fect the bio­di­ver­sity of the en­vi­ron­ment and will cause ma­jor habi­tat chaos.

Ac­cord­ing to In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture’s red list of threat­ened species, Malaysian jun­gles used to have at least 4,000 ele­phants roam­ing freely 30 years ago.

How­ever, due to pre-em­i­nent threats such as habi­tat loss, degra­da­tion, poach­ing and frag­men­ta­tion, the over­all pop­u­la­tion of ele­phants in the coun­try has de­clined by half over the past three gen­er­a­tions.

The wild ele­phants in Malaysian jun­gles are now con­cen­trated in Pa­hang, Tereng­ganu, Ke­lan­tan, Kedah, Perak, Jo­hor and Ne­gri Sem­bi­lan.

The big­gest ele­phant count has been recorded in Ta­man Ne­gara, which has an es­ti­mated 290 to 631 ele­phants.

The de­crease in ele­phant pop­u­la­tion was caused by hun­ters hunt­ing for its ivory, food con­sump­tion, leather and other prod­ucts.

World Wildlife Fund Malaysia spokesper­son Dr Ch­eryl Cheah said the coun­try needed to have more aware­ness to pro­tect the ele­phants, es­pe­cially in Sabah as Bor­neo ele­phants were be­ing poached for their tusks.

“Ev­ery­one needs to have ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Malaysia’s green her­itage such as its wildlife and ac­cept that wildlife and hu­mans have equal rights to call this coun­try their home,” she said.

She urged the pub­lic to re­port sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­i­ties to the au­thor­i­ties for fur­ther ac­tion.

“If you see ele­phant meat, tusk or ivory carv­ings be­ing sold, or other sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­i­ties, please re­port it to the au­thor­i­ties as we need ev­ery­one to be our eyes and ears,” she added.

Mean­while, as part of Ex­portIm­port Bank (Exim Bank) Malaysia’s Cor­po­rate So­cial Re­spon­si­bil­ity en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­gramme, the pub­lic can ob­tain in­for­ma­tion about the ele­phants, its char­ac­ter­is­tics, natural habi­tat and is­sues fac­ing them at Kuala Gan­dah Na­tional Ele­phant Con­ser­va­tion Cen­tre (NECC).

In con­junc­tion with World Ele­phant Day to­day, Exim Bank has re­fur­bished NECC’s in­for­ma­tion cen­tre, pro­duced brochures about the mam­mals and spon­sored a pro­static leg for a dis­abled ele­phant named Se­len­dang.

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