Challenges: Northern Borneo

Dealing with scattered animals and small breeding populations


Protection of scattered animals and small breeding populations from poaching throughout its remaining range (forest reserves and wildlife sanctuaries/reserves) continue to be a challenge to the Sabah Wildlife Department.

Localized long-term conservation potential
The long-term conservation of the species may only be possible in well protected areas such as Tabin Wildlife Reserve (including Kulamba Wildlife Reserve and the Lower Segama region) and the Sabah Foundation's (Yayasan Sabah) logging concession area (including the Danum Valley Conservation Area and the Maliau Basin Conservation Area).

Rhino horn still in demand
The continuing illicit demand for rhino horn, in spite of international efforts by IUCN, WWF, TRAFFIC and others, means that on-the-ground anti-poaching enforcement will remain a crucial conservation measure for the foreseeable future.

Significant habitat loss
Loss of forest through conversion to permanent plantations has led to a significant loss of rhino habitat in parts of eastern Sabah during the past two decades or so. But, like logging, this possibly exerts lesser pressure to the species' survival when compared to state-wide hunting pressure (Payne, 1990).

Surge in oil palm industry
The recent surge in the development of the oil palm industry, which is considered the main revenue earner in the state, may mean an even faster conversion of logged-over forests to monoculture plantations. Sabah is therefore at a point in its land use development faced by many other Southeast Asian states a few decades ago.

Elephants and rhinos are wide-ranging species and require extensive ranges to support viable populations. Throughout their distribution in Asia and in Borneo, humans are taking an increasing stake in what used to be undisturbed elephant and rhino habitat.

Major challenges include:

  • resisting external forces for alteration of forest management policies over the 99 year period;
  • the prevention of poaching of resident wildlife from access along new logging roads;
  • the development of mechanisms that protect areas of forest under rehabilitation; and
  • the design of harvesting plans that allow easy displacement of elephants and rhinos during the "disturbance phase" in each Forest Management Unit (FMU) sector, rather than the pocketing of herds or individuals in situations where they have to come into conflict with humans users in order to survive.

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