Keep roads out of Sabah's elephant forest!

Elephant eating grass Borneo’s pygmy elephants need protected habitat, not roads (© Bas Leenders CC BY SA 2.0)
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End of campaign: May 2, 2017

Demand for ivory is a grave threat to Sabah’s pygmy elephants. Yet Malaysia is building new roads deep into their habitat that will make life much easier for poachers, loggers and palm oil companies. Tell the Malaysian government to stop the construction NOW.

Call to action

To: Prime Minister Najib Razak, Chief Minister Musa Aman

Sabah’s pygmy elephants will be in grave danger if a bridge is built near the city of Sukau. The project must stopped to ensure the animals’ safety.

Read letter

Sabah’s pygmy elephants are rare and beautiful creatures, which makes the sight of poached animals all the more painful. In one case, criminals hacked off half the elephant’s head to get the tusks. In December, rangers discovered the tusk-less bones of Sabre, an elephant bull so named for his distinctive swept-back tusks.

Until recently, poaching had been virtually unknown in the lush rainforests of Sabah, home to hornbills, sun bears and orangutans. Now, however, the criminals appear to have discovered the potential of the Malaysian state.

Their gory trade could soon be made much easier by a planned bridge over the Kinabatangan river. What’s worse, a road is slated to be built through the previously inaccessible forest of Tabin Wildlife Reserve – a convenient gateway for poachers, illegal settlers, timber thieves and the expanding palm oil industry. The road would disrupt the migration paths of more than 350 elephants and crowd the herds into ever smaller fragments of their original habitat. This could force the elephants to invade villages and plantations, with potentially fatal consequences.

“Sukau bridge will become a bridge to extinction, to both wildlife…and people,” says Benoit Goossens, director of the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah. While the construction project is intended to drive the local economy, it could cripple the region’s growing ecotourism industry.

In early January, forest was cleared to make room for workers’ housing and construction machinery, even though the environmental impact of the project has not yet been formally assessed. The actual construction could start in March or April.

We need to act now!

Please help us protect Sabah’s elephants and sign our petition.


Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

The Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the north of the island of Borneo in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Its 26,000 hectares are home to eleven primate species and rare pygmy elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis). The Lower Kinabatangan Managed Elephant Range, which covers an area of 40,000 hectares, overlaps with the Wildlife Sanctuary.

Of the 2,000 pygmy elephants on Borneo, around 350 live in the Kinabatangan region.

Fragmented protected areas

Sabah’s protected areas are highly fragmented. A number of sections of Kinabatangan River are completely unprotected.

The road expansion plans in the area include paving a track that currently connects the town of Sukau with the villages of Litang and Tomanggong, which are about 40 kilometers apart.

David Attenborough speaks out

Renowned British naturalist Sir David Attenborough recently sent an open letter to the Chief Minister of Sabah calling on him to cancel the bridge project and protect "one of the most unique and biodiverse places on this planet".


To: Prime Minister Najib Razak, Chief Minister Musa Aman

Dear Prime Minister Dato' Seri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak,
Dear Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman,

The Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is home to endangered orangutans, proboscis monkeys and numerous other primates. Hundreds of pygmy elephants are native to the region. The Kinabatangan River region is world-renowned for its biodiversity.

Your plans to build a bridge over the Kinabatangan at Sukau and pave the track on the other side would aggravate the situation for animals that are already suffering from the increasing fragmentation of their habitat. Biologists fear that the project may even lead to the disappearance of the elephant population in the medium term.

The Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary offers tremendous potential for ecotourism as a sustainable source of income for generations to come. Many of the region’s residents already rely on international tourism for their livelihoods. This unique treasure could be ruined by the road and bridge construction.

We urge you to cancel the bridge project, as its economic benefits are doubtful and it would impact the habitat of numerous endangered species.