KUALA LUMPUR: The Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (Meme) has called on the authorities to ensure the safety of elephants roaming in forested areas near human settlements.

Meme emphasised the importance of securing safe passages for elephants to move and attracting them towards grazing grounds located far from human settlements and closer to forested areas.

Dr Wong Ee Phin, the group’s principal investigator, said her team is working with the sustainability teams and estate managers of oil palm plantations to co-design ways for plantations to coexist with wild elephants.

“There are opportunities to promote wildlife-friendly measures, and working together is key to help safeguard the environment, humans, and wildlife. Some large plantations have the capacity and capability to turn conflict into coexistence,” she said in a statement.

“Having a coalition allows for synergy of effort on the ground and the sharing of ideas. But we are talking about work covering large areas in the districts of Kluang, Segamat, Kota Tinggi, and Mersing, and we need many more stakeholders on the ground to support or join the effort,” Dr Wong added.

Meme was alarmed by the deaths of elephants in Kluang, Johor earlier this month. On June 1, four elephant carcasses were found in Kampung Sri Timur, allegedly resulting from villagers taking matters into their own hands after the animals repeatedly damaged their crops.

It was reported that the elephants belonged to the Bandar Tenggara herd, which roamed the Lenggor, Kluang and Kluang Tambahan, Labir and Sembrong forest reserves in Johor, and Taman Negara Endau Rompin in Pahang.

Meme added that it is currently working with plantations to identify movement pathways and secure potential grazing grounds for elephants, and aims to carry out more engagements with other state and Federal Government agencies to help connect elephant movement pathways within and outside of plantations.

“Meme is working to bring on board more plantation partners and non-profits, and looking to expand to other states. Additionally, MEME is exploring the possible use of artificial intelligence in developing early warning system prototypes to help safeguard people and elephants,” it said.