- Issue: Summer 2020
SABAH :: MALAYSIA
Elephants need space to roam. But in the Malaysian state of Sabah, agricultural development can sometimes make movement difficult for the large mammals, which frequently cut through plantations in search of food and mates.
WWF is partnering with the Sabah government and agricultural companies to enable unrestricted passage for the elephants. Beginning in 2020, a new project will establish a wildlife corridor through a Sabah government-supported palm oil plantation to connect the nearly 42-square-mile Silabukan Protection Forest Reserve and the roughly 475-square-mile Tabin Wildlife Reserve.
The plantation typically welcomes the pachyderms when the palms are mature. But saplings are a draw for hungry elephants that damage the crops, so for the first eight years after saplings are planted, the plantation establishes a perimeter fence to protect them, inhibiting the elephants’ ability to travel between reserves. Loss of habitat connectivity increases the risk of inbreeding and the potential for human-wildlife conflict as elephants seek out resources in limited, fragmented areas.
The proposed corridor—a wide pathway flanked by electric fencing—will protect fragile crops while allowing elephants and other wildlife to move freely through or around plantation land. WWF will also support planting native vegetation to restore riverside habitat to attract elephants and tree-dwelling species, such as orangutans and gibbons, to the area. The long-term aim is to foster peaceful coexistence between wildlife and the plantation industry through solutions that benefit both.