Episode 4 – Asian Elephants

Fast Facts:

• The Ulu Muda area in the state of Kedah is one of the largest continuous stretches of forest remaining in northern Peninsular Malaysia.
• Surveys conducted within and around the Ulu Muda forests have revealed that the area is one of the richest in Malaysia in terms of wildlife.
• It contains at least 109 species of mammals, 174 species of birds, 54 species of reptiles and 33 species of fish.
• Large mammals in the area include the Asian elephant, tapir and tiger.
• As the area is understudied, many other plants and animals possibly new to science await to be discovered.
• The Ulu Muda forest regulates water supply to three large man-made lakes that provide drinking and irrigation water to about 2 million people – including the tourist mecca of Penang. Without the forests this water supply would be under threat.
• Proposals for the logging of Ulu Muda are regularly put on the table.

Asian Elephants and Forest Protected Areas
The Ulu Muda area in the state of Kedah is one of the largest continuous stretches of forest in northern Peninsular Malaysia, covering an area of about 161-thousand hectares. The Ulu Muda forest is home to an array of wildlife including rare and endangered species such as the Asian Elephant, the Malayan Tiger, the Seladang, the Malayan Tapir and possibly the extremely rare and elusive Sumatran Rhinoceros. As the area is understudied, many other plants and animals, possibly new to science, await to be discovered.

A unique feature of the Ulu Muda forest is the abundance of salt-licks which provide much-needed nutrients for wildlife, especially herbivorous mammals such as deer, tapirs and elephants. The salt-licks are essentially an exposed area composed of rocks and sand rich in mineral salts, which may arise from underground springs.

Although many thousands of domesticated Asian elephants are found in Southeast Asia, this magnificent animal is threatened by extinction in the wild: in the face of rapidly growing human populations, the Asian elephant's habitat is shrinking fast.

Wild elephant populations are mostly small, isolated, and unable to join together as ancient migratory routes are cut off by human settlements. Confrontations between elephants and people often lead to deaths on both sides, and poaching for ivory, meat and hides is still a widespread problem.

Ulu Muda’s forests also regulate the water supply to three large man-made lakes that provide drinking and irrigation water to about 2 million people. In addition to the lakes, the rivers that originate from the Ulu Muda forests, including the Muda and Kedah rivers, sustain fisheries that are important for the livelihood of fishing communities of the Kedah coast, as well as supplementing the income of padi farmers who depend on the rivers. These rivers are also important for maintaining critical ecosystems such as the mudflats along the Kedah coast, an important area for migratory birds and edible shellfish.
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Animal Planet
© Animal Planet

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WWF in Ulu Muda

WWF-Malaysia is working to have the Ulu Muda forests gazetted under the National Forestry Act for soil protection, water catchment and flood control. If this area was protected then the animals, including endangered Asian elephants that live within it have better chance of survival in the wild.

As well, the State Government of Kedah has identified Ulu Muda’s forests as a potential tourism destination and is eager to promote the area. The State Government commissioned WWF-Malaysia to conduct a study to evaluate its potential as a nature tourism destination and to provide recommendations on its promotion and development. Among the recommendations of the study is for State Government to gazette the area as a State Park.

WWF-Malaysia is currently proposing that a Management Plan be drawn up for a proposed “Ulu Muda State Park”. That’s because there are already human activities within the Ulu Muda area that are putting biodiversity under threat. These include illegal harvesting of non-timber products, unregulated tourism and wildlife poaching. Of particular concern are the salt-licks because they are the focal points for wildlife poachers and tourists. Even if the wildlife was able to escape the poachers, they are still extremely sensitive to human presence at salt-licks.

How You Can Help Protect Ulu Muda, ancient forests and Asian Elephants

• Support WWF’s work on the ground http://www.panda.org/join
• Join Panda Passport, WWF’s online lobbying site http://www.passport.panda.org
• Buy timber products that carry the FSC label (Forest Stewardship Council)
• Don’t buy ivory jewellery or carvings
• Don’t buy other forest products from uncertified sources. This will help reduce incidents of illegal hunting and the collection of wild flora.
• If visiting Ulu Muda use only responsible tour operators and treat the environment with respect
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.