KINABATANGAN, (April 26) — Tourism players continue to ignore warnings and advice from the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and its partners by placing themselves and their tourists at great risk to see the Borneo Pygmy elephants in the wild.
SWD director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said he was disappointed and shocked with a report and the series of photographs the department had received from a team of honorary wildlife wardens from the HUTAN-Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme (HUTAN-KOCP).
He said the photographs which were taken this month, showed tourist boats from the lodges and the villages stopping by the banks of Tomanggong Besar River – tributary of the Kinabatangan River – to enable tourists to get a better glimpse of the elephants in the jungle.
“This issue has been brought up, time and time again, in the media and at various meetings and discussions. There is no excuse for getting out of the boats and risking everyone’s life, including those of children, as seen in the photographs.
“This kind of behaviour is dangerous for the people and stressful to the elephants,” he said in a statement here Saturday.
In December 2011, an elephant at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve killed an Australian tourist after she left the trail to take pictures of the pachyderm.
In that tragic incident, it was understood that the tourist had not heeded the advice of her guide to stay on the trail.
Nurzhafarina Othman, a Malaysian doctoral student registered at Cardiff University, who has been studying wild elephants of the Kinabatangan since 2008, shared her concerns on the amount of stress such encounters had on the mammals.
Nurzhafarina, who is also attached to the Danau Girang Field Centre and works closely with the SWD and HUTAN KOCP on elephant behaviour, explained that the presence of boats close to the elephants prevented them from crossing the river and disrupted their migration path. — BERNAMA