Saving the Asian elephant in Malaysia will be the focus of an upcoming workshop at the Institute of Biological Diversity in Krau Wildlife Reserve, Malaysia (from 29 November-1 December, 2012), according to the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The gathering--the first of its kind in Malaysia for wild elephants--will bring together more than 60 participants, including stakeholders from the logging industry, oil palm developers, town and country planners, conservationists, and representatives from NGOs, government agencies, academia, and corporations.
One of the primary goals of the workshop will be the establishment of a "Managed Elephant Range" within the central forest spine of Peninsular Malaysia, a region known to contain the largest remaining population of wild elephants in Southeast Asia. Within this range, viable populations of elephants can move unhindered through the native forest core. Other workshop goals include: providing nearby communities with the tools needed for reducing human-elephant conflicts; and increasing awareness and tolerance for Malaysia's elephants.
"We are really happy with the response given by the various stakeholders and the willingness of all of them to come together and work even across the weekend to try and look for solutions to save Malaysia's largest mammal," said Dato Rasid, Director-General, Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Malaysia. "Furthermore, with the input of renowned elephant conservationists and scientists, we know that the solution will include biological requirements for the species and this indeed is very important."
Dr. Melvin Gumal, Director of Malaysia Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, said: "The workshop has the potential to produce the most current, relevant, science-based blueprint to save this species in Peninsular Malaysia. There is much hope as the plan is not developed in a silo, but in discussion with all the major stakeholders."
Recent elephant surveys conducted by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in collaboration with WCS in the forests of Peninsular Malaysia have found that the region still contains significant numbers of elephants; One landscape--Taman Negara National Park--contains an estimated 631 elephants, the largest known wild elephant population in Southeast Asia.
The huge potential for elephant conservation in Malaysia stems in part from the Central Forest Spine initiative, a centralized plan implemented in 2007 that has succeeded in protecting native forests from uncoordinated land clearance for agricultural purposes. One particular threat to these forests came from monoculture plantations, which would affect the movements of elephants through habitat fragmentation and potentially causes human-elephant conflicts. The participants hope to formulate practical and sustainable solutions for maintaining vital corridors for elephants and other wide-ranging species.
Other elephant conservation and research work with various partners in Peninsular Malaysia include human-elephant conflict mitigation, surveys with the assistance of indigenous trackers, and satellite-collar tracking in partnership with Nottingham University.