KOTA TINGGI: A seven-year-old female elephant was captured and relocated to a bigger forested area in a 10-day operation conducted by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) yesterday.
Found on the fringes of the Mawai jungle, the elephant was coaxed by two other female elephants which were brought in from the Kuala Gandah elephant sanctuary in Pahang.
Johor Perhilitan director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said the female elephant was transported on a truck at about 9am with the help of a10-member team from Johor Perhilitan and the Kuala Gandah elephant sanctuary.
"The recent operation began on Aug 9. Operations are carried out every year as we capture and relocate elephants to better habitats. This operation led to the capture of a seven-year-old female elephant near Mawai.
"Operations are also carried out when there are complaints of elephant encroachments in human settlements," Jamalun told the New Straits Times.
He said the population of elephants in Johor currently stood between 140 to 150, and occurences of them entering human settlements were likely due to destruction at the elephants' natural habitat.
Jamalun urged residents in the area to refrain from taking any drastic action whenever they encountered the mammals and to contact the state Perhilitan to handle such cases.
A 33-year-old Indonesian plantation worker died in an incident where he was believed to have been trampled to death by elephants in Ladang Tunjuk Laut, Tanjung Sedili almost on two months ago.
Since that incident on June 21, there have other sightings of the mammals along the Kota Tinggi-Mersing trunk road.
There were another six encounters with the jumbos in nearby Kampung Lukut, Kota Tinggi.
Residents in Mawai also claimed that human conflicts with elephants were more frequent in the past three years.
Badrul Zaman Abu Samah, 51, said that while it used to be common to see herds of elephants once or twice a year in his village in Mawai, the encounters were getting more frequent now.
"When I was growing up in the area, herds of elephants will roam the village twice a year. It used to be an uncommon sight, but is now getting more common as we see elephants several times each month.
"Residents fear for their safety as the elephants destroyed banana trees, oil palms and other crops. Once, the mammals damaged a plantation manager's house till a metal beam was dented. It scared the manager's family," said Badrul Zaman who works with the Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Felcra).
He urged the authorities to look into the matter, and ensure that the upcoming elephant sanctuary slated to be built in Panti, Kota Tinggi would be able to accommodate a large number of elephants that were native to the area.
Malaysian Nature Society vice chairman Vincent Chow said there was always a risk of elephants entering human settlements if humans continued to encroach into the animal's natural habitat.
He said Mawai and its surrounding areas were known as migratory routes for elephants, while the forests along Sungai Panti were places where the mammals obtained food and water.