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    » 02/27/2009, 00.00

    MALAYSIA

    Borneo, pygmy elephant at risk of extinction



    The animal is very fond of palm oil, a precious resource for Malaysian industry, which kills the pachyderms to protect production. In 2008, exports of palm oil derivatives totaled more than 17 billion U.S. dollars. The WWF is asking for "long term" solutions to preserve the species.

    Sukau (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In Malaysia, the pygmy elephant is at risk of extinction. The species - a variation of the common elephant - faces the threat of the Malaysian palm oil industry, which is not hesitating to wipe out the remaining specimens in order to defend the plantations.

    Groups of pygmy elephants on the island of Malaysian Borneo are encroaching on the palm plantations, which over time have reduced their natural habitat. The animals eat the heart of the oil palm, leading to genuine battles with farmers.

    According to WWF estimates, in the northeastern state of Sabah - crossed by the Kinabatagan river - there are 1500 pygmy elephants remaining: they were once considered the descendants of specimens from a private zoo belonging to the sultan of Sulu; now the dominant hypothesis is that they are a subspecies of the more widespread Asian elephant, from which they differ because they are about half a meter shorter (the pygmy elephant reaches a maximum height of 2.5 meters), have a diminutive trunk and large ears, and are generally of a more docile character.

    On an ordinary day, they travel one or two kilometers in search of food, eating about 200 kilos of grass, palms, and bananas. But there is an increasing shortage of food because of the spread of villages, the construction of new roads, the creation of new plantations, so that now the animals sometimes have to cover three times their normal daily distance to find enough to eat.

    Conflicts with human beings break out when the pygmy elephant encroaches on the palm orchards to eat the fruits of the plants, which are used for a vast variety of products from cooking oil to cosmetics. The oil palm is one of the main resources for the export sector: in Malaysia, there are 4.3 million hectares planted with palm trees, and in Sabah alone, one of the 13 states of the country, there are 1.4 million. In 2008, the palm oil business amounted to 17.64 billion U.S. dollars.

    "Human-elephant conflicts occur daily around the Kinabatangan plantations," says Raymond Alfred of the WWF. In some places, the animals are shot or poisoned. "We still need long term solutions," Alfred says.

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    See also

    06/02/2013 MALAYSIA
    Reward to stop the killing of pygmy elephants
    If their death was caused by intentional poisoning, the authorities will pay out a US$ 16,000 reward to anyone with useful information. The toxicology report is due this Friday. Many fear the elephants' death was intentional because they ate fruit from a palm treat plantation.

    20/04/2009 PHILIPPINES
    Scientists warn more than 1,000 species are in danger of extinction in southeast Asia
    Climate change and human behavior are putting their lives in jeopardy. They include the elephant in Brunei, and the deer in Laos. Their disappearance could bring drastic changes to the lives of 500 million people in the area. The archbishop of Manila calls for the intelligent use of natural resources.

    15/09/2015 INDONESIA - MALAYSIA
    Haze and respiratory problems from Indonesia’s wildfire emergency closes schools
    Malaysia and Singapore also affected by the phenomenon: Kuala Lumpur closes schools. In the city-state outdoor activities are not recommended. Health risks for tens of thousands of people. So far governments attempts to contain fires futile. Major suspects remain palm oil companies.

    27/03/2015 INDONESIA
    Indonesia tops human-elephant run-ins
    As farming encroaches on wild areas, elephants are more likely to encounter humans. The authorities are concerned about the economic impact of elephants trespassing onto farmland, and humans’ violent reaction to it.

    11/03/2009 INDONESIA
    Indonesia rediscovers microbusiness as solution to unemployment
    Exports are collapsing (-36% in January), and unemployment is on the rise from already high levels. With no better prospects, the unemployed are reinventing small businesses, like food carts. The government is financing projects to foster microbusiness. These also include handmade cigarettes.



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