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ADUN SPEAKS | Johor forestry officials must act to limit human-elephant conflicts

ADUN SPEAKS | Bekok orchard owners and palm oil farmers have complained that their crops are being damaged and destroyed by wild elephants, wild boars and monkeys which badly affects their income.

In between them and the Forestry officer from Segamat on Aug 5, they said that their durians, oil palm fruits and banana plants are being destroyed by these wild animals.

According to the group of farmers, elephants are eating their oil palm fruits and the banana plants are being ravaged while durian trees are being uprooted.

They said that chasing away the elephants does not solve the problem because the animals come back the next day to eat more fruits. They have requested that the elephants be translocated to sanctuaries or far away into the forest.

Farms bordering forest edges are subject to elephant encroaching which damage durian, oil palm and banana trees. Durian farmers must wait for about 10 years to harvest their fruits and damage caused by elephants delays their harvest.

Elephants foraging for food from the nearby jungle are encroaching upon farms that fringe the forest. Elephants are powerful and can uproot durian trees to reach the fruits.

The pachyderm herds are also making more frequent visits to oil palm and banana plantations. This is causing large financial losses to the local farmers and they have requested these elephants to be relocated to other elephant sanctuaries.

Since Bekok is situated near the Endau-Rompin National Park, where elephants are translocated to, the Forestry Department must take measures to better protect the local farms from wildlife encroachment.

Land clearance and logging must be carefully planned and monitored to avoid human and animal conflicts. Elephants are said to follow a certain route in search of food. If this is disrupted, they turn to nearby fruit farms for food. The present development model does not consider the impact of logging and forest clearance on the animals' habitat in the area.

Besides Bekok, we have seen video clips in social media where elephants come out to main roads to search for food from nearby fruit stalls. Forest reserves in Johor are also fast depleting due to farming and logging. This is a serious and bigger issue for the state government, and it has to come out with guidelines on forest clearance and logging.

The Forestry Department must be more proactive in protecting and monitoring the whereabouts, location and well-being of elephants in Johor. More elephant sanctuaries can be created to relocate displaced elephants from logging areas.

Farmers too must be trained to coexist and avoid conflict with elephants. It is said that fire keeps away these huge beasts. Elephants, in general, come out in search of food and not to harm people.

S RAMAKRISHNAN is Bekok assemblyperson.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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