Jumbo-sized discovery made in Malaysia

Jan 14, 2009
This is a herd of Asian elephants in Taman Nagara National Park in Malaysia, now home to SE Asia's largest-known population. Credit: Simon Hedges/Wildlife Conservation Society

New data released today by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Malaysia's Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) reveals that a population of endangered Asian elephants living in a Malaysian park may be the largest in Southeast Asia.

WCS and DWNP researchers estimate that there are 631 Asian elephants living in Taman Negara National Park - a 4,343 square kilometer (1,676 square mile) protected area in the center of Peninsular Malaysia. The new results confirm the largest-known population of elephants remaining in Southeast Asia.

The WCS/DWNP team counted elephant dung piles to estimate population size—a scientifically proven technique that produces accurate figures. There were no previous scientific population surveys for elephants in the park, according to DWNP and WCS.

"The surveys reveal the importance of Taman Negara in protecting wildlife especially those species that need large home ranges. DWNP will continue to safeguard this national park, which is the crown jewel of Malaysia's protected areas system. The numbers of elephants is testament to the importance of the park in protecting wildlife," said Dato' Rasid, Director-General of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

"This new survey shows that Taman Negara National Park is one of the great strongholds for Asian elephants in Southeast Asia," said Dr. Melvin Gumal, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's conservation programs in Malaysia. "People were unsure of how many elephants lived in the park before our survey, although there were good reasons to think that the population was substantial."

The park, which contains one of the world's oldest rainforests—dating back 130 million years, also supports tigers, leopards, dholes, numerous monkey species, and 350 types of birds.

Asian elephants are endangered due to habitat loss and poaching; between 30,000 and 50,000 may remain in 13 Asian countries.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks protects wildlife and manages federal protected areas throughout Peninsular Malaysia, and the Wildlife Conservation Society works to protect Asian elephants throughout their Asian range.

Efforts to save the Asian Elephant have come from various levels of government and the international community, including the United States Government. Since 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through its Asian Elephant Conservation Fund has invested over $9 million across Asia which has leveraged an additional $13 million through conservation organizations such as WCS, private donations, corporate and other support. The U.S. Congress recently reauthorized the Asian Elephant Conservation Act to ensure uninterrupted conservation assistance to protect Asia's cultural and ecological icon. The Asian elephant is listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and has seen a drastic reduction in total population across its range as a result of illegal poaching, increased human-wildlife conflict and other threats. This project was partly funded by the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund and the CITES MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) program, a monitoring tool used by CITES in the complex business of assessing policies for trade in elephant products which also helped the Government of Malaysia meet it obligations to CITES.

Source: Wildlife Conservation Society

Explore further: Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

Related Stories

Conservationists: New China policy could save elephants

Jun 25, 2015

Conservationists hail it as a possible game-changer in the struggle to curb the slaughter of elephants: an unexpected pledge by a senior Chinese official to stop the ivory trade in a country whose vast, increasingly ...

African vultures declining at a critical rate

Jun 19, 2015

An international team of researchers, including leading scientists from the University of St Andrews, the Hawk Conservancy Trust and the University of York, say African vultures are likely to qualify as 'Critically ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

16 hours ago

The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed.

The math of shark skin

Jul 03, 2015

"Sharks are almost perfectly evolved animals. We can learn a lot from studying them," says Emory mathematician Alessandro Veneziani.

Cuban, US scientists bond over big sharks

Jul 03, 2015

Somewhere in the North Atlantic right now, a longfin mako shark—a cousin of the storied great white—is cruising around, oblivious to the yellow satellite tag on its dorsal fin.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.