Sime Darby Plantation and partner MEME develop the world’s first mechanism to resolve Human-Elephant Conflict

Yayasan Sime Darby is funding RM8.11 million to support the 11-year research project

SEMENYIH, 18 February 2020 –?The world’s first publicly available human-elephant conflict (HEC) resolution mechanism is set to be developed, thanks to the partnership between academia and the public and private sectors.

The science-backed mechanism in the form of standard operating procedures (SOP) will be made public by the end of this year and it champions co-existence between humans and the endangered species.

This is made possible by a collaboration between the Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME) project and Sime Darby Plantation (SDP).

MEME has been running since 2012 with support from Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD). YSD renewed its support for the project with a RM2.85 million commitment for three years from Jan 2020 until Dec 2022. The project’s phase 3 launch is commemorated by a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing between YSD and MEME at the University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM).

YSD previously committed RM3.36 million for the project’s phase 1 (Jan 2012- Dec 2016) and RM1.9 million for phase 2 (Jan 2017- Dec 2019), bringing the total commitment to RM8.11 million over an 11-year period. MEME and SDP employee and YSD environmental scholar Nur Aida Ab Ghani are developing co-existence solutions to form the SOP by combining research findings from the project.

The project’s long-term goals are to increase capacity-building and tolerance among communities, smallholders and plantations; to promote human-elephant co-existence on a national scale; and to enhance the protection of wild elephants and their habitats. The project also aims to empower relevant communities to increase tolerance towards elephants, as this will address the rising death toll of the endangered species in Malaysia.

YB Teresa Kok, Minister of Primary Industries who was present at the launch lauded the initiative and said it addresses the rising HEC incidences among villagers, plantation workers and the elephants.

“The government appreciates the efforts of the private sector and academia to find solutions to tackle HEC. This endeavour fuses knowledge from the plantation industry with research findings on elephant behaviour and ecology to produce evidence-based resolution.

“Agriculture and conservation must work hand in hand to achieve sustainable development. SDP for example, has gone above and beyond to develop the mechanism with the interest of elephants’ welfare at heart,” she noted.

YSD Governing Council Member, Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha said the SOP is being developed to form part of SDP’s Human-Wildlife Resolution policy under its Responsible Agriculture Charter (RAC). He announced that the SOP is set to be implemented across all SDP estates before the end of 2020.

“In the long run, this undertaking will empower plantations to understand Human Elephant Conflict patterns in their own area and enable adaptive management standards, as elephant behaviour and the nature of the Human Elephant Conflict may differ from one place to another.

“Once completed, the standard operating procedure will be made accessible to all relevant industries,” said Helmy who is also the Group Managing Director of Sime Darby Plantation.

MEME was established since 2011 as a joint research project between the University of Nottingham Malaysia and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN), with the aim to move towards evidence-based management and conservation of wild elephants in Peninsular Malaysia.

Dr Wong Ee Phin, the Principal Investigator for MEME said wild elephants require large roaming areas and a big portion of their habitat lies outside of protected areas. “In Peninsular Malaysia’s landscape where we still have elephants and humans living together, two-thirds are experiencing conflict.

“The continued support from YSD has allowed MEME to continue our momentum, to move from knowledge generation to implementation on the ground. We need to work together with agriculture communities to see how we can manage the conflict to a tolerable level that allows coexistence for long-term,” she said.

Professor Deborah Hall, UNM’s Vice-Provost for Research and Knowledge Exchange said: “The MEME project represents one of our flagship sustainability programmes, working hand-in-hand with external partners to deliver pioneering research that changes lives.

“Our research enables local authorities and other policymakers to make evidence-based decision in elephant conservation and we are committed to building local capacity in conservation science and practice. We are delighted to sign this MOU in the year that we are also celebrating 20 years of a thriving global University in Malaysia."

MEME was involved in the drafting of the National Conservation and Action Plan (NECAP), which was launched in 2013, and is one of the key members of MyGajah, the steering committee led by PERHILITAN that oversees NECAP’s implementation. MEME supports the national Central Forest Spine Masterplan for ecological linkages, that aims to restore forest connectivity throughout Peninsular Malaysia.

Under its Environment pillar, to date, YSD has committed over RM153 million towards the protection of high conservation value ecosystems, vulnerable and endangered species as well as initiatives promoting the preservation of the environment and biodiversity.

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