Research & Conservation - Asian Elephants in Tabin Wildlife Reserve

In the early 1980's, WWF assisted Sabah Government staff in survey work that helped provide the impetus for gazettement of Tabin Wildlife Reserve in 1984.

Tabin was chosen largely because it had the only viable population of Sumatran rhino and also has the largest population of elephant (Elephas maximus) in Borneo.

A WWF-sponsored 1992 elephant census of Tabin using the dung count technique led to the conclusion that the elephant population is between 200-300 individuals 20-30% of the entire Bornean population).

elephants in the Tabin jungle

High concentrations were noted in areas near big rivers and in low lying areas, especially in the eastern and north-central regions of Tabin.

Subsequent to 1996 Dr. Annelisa Kilbourn and a wildlife ranger team relocated 14 elephants in a program that led to the refinement of capture and tranquilization techniques. The elephants were genetically tested before release. Analyses revealed that the species is indigenous to Borneo. This put to rest a long-standing controversy.

The WWF is developing a large mammal management plan with emphasis on elephants and rhinos for Tabin Wildlife Reserve and the establishment of a Conflict Working Group (CWG) to handle human-elephant conflicts at Tabin. This includes the creation of an ecotourism plan with a marketing strategy to use elephants in selected sites to promote the conservation of wild elephants.

WWF, SOS Rhino, SZG and other cooperating agencies are assisting the JHL in implementing programs that will secure the Tabin Wildlife Reserve's elephant and rhino populations for the long-term. Conservation of both species is being grounded in the necessary research, population monitoring, habitat preservation and buffer zone management.