Population of Asian elephants discovered in Malaysian park

January 15, 2009

A population of 631 Asian elephants has been documented in Malaysia's Taman Negara National Park, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The population may be the largest in Southeast Asia.

Scientists from WCS and Malaysia's Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) counted elephant dung piles to estimate the protected area's population size. There were no previous scientific population surveys for elephants in the park.

"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.

Photos show a herd of Asian elephants in Malaysia's Taman Negara National Park (credit Simon Hedges/Wildlife Conservation Society)
"This new survey shows that Taman Negara National Park is one of the great strongholds for Asian elephants in Southeast Asia," added 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."

Taman Negara is one of Peninsular Malaysia's most popular destinations for ecotourists. Located a half-day away from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Taman Negara contains one of the world's oldest rainforests—dating back 130 million years—and supports a rich array of species, including tiger, leopard, tapir, sumatran rhino, dhole, several kinds of monkeys, and 350 types of birds.

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

Jungle trekking in Malaysia's Taman Negara March 21, 2006
Malaysia's deforestation rate is accelerating faster than that of any other tropical country in the world, according to data from the United Nations. Analysis of figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) shows that Malaysia's annual deforestation rate jumped almost 86 percent between the 1990-2000 period and 2000-2005. In total, Malaysia lost an average of 140,200 hectares — 0.65 percent of its forest area — per year since 2000. Declining forest cover in Malaysia results primarily from urbanization, agricultural fires, and forest conversion for oil-palm plantations and other forms of agriculture. Despite these losses, Malaysia has some spectacular protected areas including Taman Negara — Malaysia's largest and best-known national park. Spanning 4343 square kilometers, the park is home to some of southeast Asia's rarest creatures including tigers, the Malaysian tapir, forest elephants, and the Sumatran rhino.

mongabay.com (January 15, 2009).

Population of Asian elephants discovered in Malaysian park.