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Tracking wild elephants to identify conservation areas and corridors

Posted on March 18, 2013, Monday

Dr Diana Ramirez and Marvin George from Widlife Rescue Unit collecting blood from Dara's ear.

Dr Diana Ramirez and Marvin George from Widlife Rescue Unit collecting blood from Dara’s ear.

KOTA KINABALU: The Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) from Sabah Wildlife Department darted two female elephants, one adult and one juvenile in Gunung Rara Forest Reserve.

The two females were part of the herd from which 14 individuals died from unknown cause.

Dr Diana Ramirez, wildlife veterinarian for WRU, said the adult female, named Dara by WRU rangers, was set up with a satellite collar provided by Danau Girang Field Centre.

“We also collected blood from Dara and a juvenile female from the same herd, following a request by the State Wildlife Enforcement Task Force. One of the causes of death of the 14 elephants could be an emerging or unknown disease. By analysing the blood of the living elephants from the same herd, it could help identifying the disease, if any,” explained Ramirez.

Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) director Dr Benoit Goossens said by collaring an adult female from the herd, they hope to identify the movements of the herd within the changing landscape in Gunung Rara/Kalabakan region, and try to understand what could have happened to the 14 elephants that died last January.

“Moreover, in collaboration with WWF-Malaysia, we plan to fit satellite collars on 20 to 30 elephants from several herds in central Sabah. We will then monitor their movements and ranging patterns in order to identify the best areas for conservation and propose the establishment of elephant corridors,” added Goossens.

“So far, from February 25 to March 15, Dara has been traveling within Gunung Rara Forest Reserve. Blood samples were sent to Thailand and Australia for analysis,” concluded Goossens.

Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, director of Sabah Wildlife Department, said the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment and the Sabah Wildlife Department would not give up in its quest of identifying the cause of death of the 14 elephants that were found in Gunung Rara Forest Reserve.

Dara’s collaring was funded by grants from The Asian Elephant Foundation and Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and US Fish and Wildlife Service to DGFC.

Danau Girang Field Centre ¨C a field study centre located within the Kinabatangan – is a collaborative project between the Sabah Wildlife Department and Cardiff University.

The Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit was established by SWD with funds from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) and Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort.

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