Five more elephants collared in Kinabatangan


The collaring team (members of Wildlife Rescue Unit and DGFC) with Putut.

KINABATANGAN: Five Bornean elephants were fitted with a satellite collar from June 4 to 6 near Danau Girang Field Centre, in Lot 5 of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS) as part of a collaborative project between the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the NGO HUTAN and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

This project is funded by the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Elephant Family, Houston Zoo and Columbus Zoo.

The collaring operations were led by two amazing young women, Malaysian PhD student Nurzhafarina Othman registered at Cardiff University and attached to DGFC and Mexican wildlife veterinarian Dr Diana Ramirez attached to SWD’s Wildlife Rescue Unit and DGFC.

Dr Ramirez said in just three days, their team managed to collar four females and one male.

“I would like to congratulate my team and especially all the boys from our Wildlife Rescue Unit, as well as the River Keeper Unit boys and DGFC staff and students who did an amazing job,” added Dr Ramirez.

They recollared a female that was previously tagged in October 2011 and named Putut, three new females selected by Nurzhafarina for her PhD on the social behaviour of the Kinabatangan elephants, and named Ita, Bell and Tess; and one male of 30-40 years old named Sejati.

Nurzhafarina said these five individuals bring the number of currently tracked elephants to eight.

“The main purpose of collaring is to collect additional movement data from different individuals to facilitate the management of the Bornean elephant in the Kinabatangan, but also to determine the social associations among females using GPS points, especially highly related females, an important component of my PhD.

“Three females, Putut, Bell and Tess were fit with collars provided by a colleague of ours, Dr Shermin de Silva, from Sri Lanka, with whom we are collaborating on female behaviour,” she explained.

“To find the elephants in the forest, we were communicating by text messages with my supervisor, Dr Benoit Goossens, who, from his office in Kota Kinabalu, was providing real-time GPS positions of Aqeela, Puteri and Liun, three females from the same her that were collared back in 2010, 2011 and 2012,” she added.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens praised the dedication for wildlife conservation and the commitment of two great women and congratulated them for a job well done.

“Having taken part in elephant collaring operations before, I know how difficult it is to track, dart and collar an elephant. Here, in three days, the team managed to collar five individuals, including a male. This is possible only under a strong leadership in the field.

“Finally, I would like to acknowledge the special relationship that DGFC and Wildlife Rescue Unit have. For three years now, we have been working closely together in a number of projects, and I can only congratulate Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu and Dr Sen Nathan from Sabah Wildlife Depatment for their vision and for setting up such an important team dedicated to wildlife conservation in Sabah. These young boys and girls are amazing!” said Goossens.