Elephant Survey in Kalimantan
Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation Officer
On 13-23 February 2018, WWF-Indonesia conducted a survey of Borneo Elephants in Tulin Onsoi Subdistrict, Nunukan District. The survey was conducted collaboratively by involving some parties including the Natural Resources Conservation Center (Balai Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam/BKSDA) of East Kalimantan, Environment Agency (Dinas Lingkungan Hidup/DLH) of Nunukan, Gapeta Borneo Nunukan, Forestry Faculty Student of Mulawarman University, Elephant Conflict Task (Satgas Konflik Gajah) of Tulin Onsoi and the local community. The purpose of this survey is to update the previous survey data of elephants population in 2012 (6 years ago) where the number of previously estimated population of 30-80 individuals with a habitat of about 93,800 ha.
This survey was conducted by using the occupancy method to record the distribution of Borneo Elephant habitat in combination with the dung count method for the calculation of the pupulation. Occupancy surveys use a grid or a 5x5 km survey plot, in which there is a small grid of 1x1 km size, while the dung count method is a collection of elephant dung finding data. WWF-Indonesia has set the survey area of Borneo Elephant as much as 40 grid of survey, 1 grid of survey with size 5x5 km (25 km²) so that the target area of the survey from 2018 until 2019 is 1,000 km² or 100.000 hectare whilst the result will be better if survey can be completed in 2018. Future survey data is expected to be used by the parties as a reference in the implementation of Borneo Elephant conservation activities.
The occupation survey method and the dung count were the first new methods to be applied in this survey, before the 2-day field data was undertaken, the survey team was trained by Wisnu Sukmantoro from the Indonesian Elephant Association (Perkumpulan Gajah Indonesia/PGI).
This survey focused on the river areas that are part of the Borneo Elephant habitat. The survey activity was divided into 4 teams – namely the Agison river team, the Sibuda river team, the Apan river team and the Tampilon river team. The trip to the survey location was taken by a boat and took 1 to 2 days. The upper river area is a tough area to traverse; the team must go through hills, cliffs and rushing steep of river, while the altitude reaches 1,000 meters above sea level (asl).
In the survey activity, the team still has not found the direct encounter of elephants but the elephants' marks of targeted surveys have been found by all teams, such as traces, dirt, friction and puddles. It is still difficult to get a direct encounter with an elephant considering its relatively small population while the habitat is large enough. Nevertheless, the findings of footprints and dirts found to be a sign that the Borneo Elephants still exist and breed in the area.
Forest areas that have been surveyed as the next habitat for Elephants are still in good condition, there has not been any deforestation or illegal logging in the area. However, some of the threats are also found among other activities of agarwood hunting in elephant habitat, hunting activities using traps and new roads opening. According to community information, the possibility of opening the new road that is the Trans Kalimantan road needs to be coordinated with the government.
The team was only able to complete 10 grid surveys due to the toughness of the area. While the main obstacle is the weather is not good; there is often rain and floods on the ground, especially in the upper reaches of the river. From this survey, approximately 25% of the survey area has been conducted, so there are still 75% of the area that have not been surveyed and will be resumed until 2018/2019.