Environment

100ha grass cultivation test plot at Sabah wildlife corridor

KOTA KINABALU: A 100 hectare area of wildlife corridor will be used as a test plot to cultivate the Napier grass for the Bornean Elephants.

Sabah Softwoods Berhad (SSB) has been working together with Sabah Wildlife Department to manage human-elephant co-existence, both to reduce crop damage from elephants and to reduce the risk of elephant and human deaths in agricultural landscapes.

In 2013, SSB has established the wildlife corridor to connect the isolated Ulu Kalumpang FR (51,118 ha)in the Southeast and Ulu Segama FR (242,884 ha) in the North .

The corridor will allow for the movement of wildlife such as the Bornean Elephant (Elephas maximus borneoensis) and Bornean Orangutan
(Pongo pygmaeus) to move from one landscape to another.

Minister of Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Christina Liew said the corridor, which is located in the northeastern part of Brumas region, is necessary to alleviate the risk of animal extinction and avoid inbreeding.

“It has been proposed that a 100 ha area of this wildlife corridor will be utilized as a test plot to cultivate the Napier grass for the Bornean Elephants consumption.”

“Based on an adult elephant daily feed intake of 200kg per day and assuming the elephants feeds entirely on this cultivated Napier grass, this 100 hectare plot would be able to feed 200 elephants all year round,” Liew said Liew, whose speech was read by Assistant Minister Assafal Alian during a meeting with the Primary Industries.

Liew said the plantation of grass species to further supplement food availability for Mega herbivores and other ungulate species is a relatively new, cheap and novel concept in wildlife conservation.

Facing habitat loss and fragmentation and the ever-increasing threat of
Human Elephant Conflict, there has been an alarming increase in elephant mortality in the past 5 years.

“Thus there is an urgent need increase connectivity of elephant
ranges and enriching food availability of current elephant habitat thus further expanding the area for elephants to safely roam, feed and breed.

“Establishing wildlife corridors to connect Managed Elephant Ranges in Sabah is one of the most important steps that will improve the conservation needs of the Bornean Elephant in terms of its home range and carrying capacity.”

Napier grass

Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) is a highly nutritious and popular green plant used as a food for dairy animals. Stem cuttings or stolons can propagate it vegetatively.

It grows well and can reach a height of up to 4 meters in three months which the grass produces a higher amount of dry matter than the other tropical grasses.

This grass also has a high nutritive value compared to Brachiaria sp. and Panicum sp with an average Crude Protein (CP) of about 12% and Crude Fiber (CF) of about 35 per cent.

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