Kalabakan district holds potential as a new tourism destination for Borneo pygmy elephant enthusiasts, says Datuk Christina Liew, the Sabah Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister.
She envisions Kalabakan becoming a tourist hotspot through unified efforts to preserve these iconic elephants.
Pygmy elephants can already be observed in various Sabah destinations, including the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Danum Valley Conservation Area, and the Maliau Basin.
Liew emphasizes the need to maintain a stable pygmy elephant population and address conflicts with humans, with the support of local community conservation partners.
Borneo pygmy elephants are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and receive full protection in Sabah.
With around 1,500 pygmy elephants in Sabah, they face threats like habitat loss and conflicts with humans, especially in plantations and settlements.
Aligned with the World Elephant Day theme of “Safeguarding elephant habitats for a sustainable tomorrow,” Liew highlights the importance of wildlife corridors and conflict mitigation methods.
The Sabah Tourism Ministry and Sabah Wildlife Department collaborate on management plans to tackle these conflicts.
In 2023, various initiatives are underway, including habitat identification, improved conflict procedures, and community training. This year alone, over 142 complaints related to elephant conflicts were received.
Efforts to protect Borneo pygmy elephants and boost eco-tourism in Kalabakan reflect Sabah’s dedication to preserving its unique wildlife and natural treasures.