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Satellite Tracking Leads to Treatment of Injured Borneo Pygmy Elephant

Sabah Wildlife Department and World Wildife Fund-Malaysia (Asian Rhinoceros and Elephant Action Strategy - AREAS Project) with support from SARAYA Co. Ltd. (Japan) successfully located and treated an injured Borneo Pygmy elephant at Bukit Permata, Lower Kinabatangan on Jan. 24, 2006.

The injured Borneo Pygmy elephant belongs to Bod Tai's group, which the AREAS field team has been following with the satellite tracking system setup by Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and WWF-Malaysia (Bod Tai is one of five elephants collared since June 2005). The AREAS team came to notice that one elephant in the group was shot on its right foreleg, and tracked it for a week before the SWD-WWF rescue team managed to tranquilise and treat it with antibiotics at Bukit Permata.

AREAS Project Manager, Raymond Alfred, said that the injured elephant could have been shot during a human-elephant conflict, when it was chased away from either a privately owned land or a plantation. Borneo Pygmy elephants in Lower Kinabatangan need to be consistently monitored since the group there is always open to threats due to human and elephant conflicts. Recognising the elephants' movement and understanding their habitat, especially forest conditions, are vital for a long-term human-elephant conflict solution in Lower Kinabatangan, added Raymond.

Borneo Pygmy elephants normally use only a few thousands of hectares of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and Forest Reserves, and they frequently venture into privately owned land, including villages and oil palm plantations. Due to barriers formed by large rivers, large water channels, oil palm plantations and villages, the forests downstream of the Sandakan-Lahad Datu highway are divided into 15 fragmented patches. Elephants can only move between these patches by swimming across rivers, and walking through plantations and villages.

Currently, Sabah Wildlife Department and WWF-Malaysia's AREAS are studying the availability of food in Lower Kinabatangan as compared to food in forests of central Sabah (Ulu Segama and Gunung Rara). Data from the study would be used to identify elephants' movement and habitat use, which would lead to protection and restoration of their corridor in the future.

Sabah Wildlife Department and WWF-Malaysia wish to record their sincere thanks to SARAYA Co. Ltd. (Japan) for funding the operation to locate and treat the injured elephant. WWF-US, WWF-Netherlands, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fund the Borneo Pygmy elephant-tracking project.