Lieu: Brunoy

Abstract. Peninsular Malaysia is home to approximately 1,500 wild elephants that in less than two generations have seen over half of their natural habitat replaced by rubber, oil palm, and other anthropogenic land uses. This has led to a sharp decline in elephant range and increase of human-elephant conflict (HEC) in the form of crop raiding. Over the past 40 years, elephant management in Malaysia has largely been based on the translocation of elephants from conflict zones to protected areas. In this presentation I will introduce the work of the ‘Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants’ (MEME), an interdisciplinary project run as a collaboration between the local wildlife authorities and university researchers that aims to bring a science-driven approach to the conservation of Malaysian elephants. We use a combination of GPS-satellite tracking, camera-traps, non-invasive molecular tools and other ecological and social science techniques to study elephant behavior and ecology, and their interactions with people. Among others, our results show that forest fragmentation by roads results in complex, often unexpected, changes in elephant movements and diet; that elephant behavior affects forest composition through the dispersal of large-seeded trees; and that translocation is not a long-term solution for HEC mitigation. We are currently proposing a new conservation strategy based on the combination of wildlife-sensitive land-use planning, crop protection, economic compensation, and education, to promote human-elephant coexistence. Peninsular Malaysia can afford to conserve its elephants in the long-term but important changes in people’s behavior are needed for this to happen.

Biosketch. I am a conservation ecologist and my main research interest lies in the behavior, ecology, and conservation of Asian megafauna, particularly elephants. My work focuses on (1) understanding elephants’ ecological function, especially as seed dispersers, and (2) developing science-based strategies for human-elephant coexistence. I obtained my PhD from the University of Tokyo (2009) and held a research fellowship at the National University of Singapore (NUS, 2009-2010). Then I moved to Malaysia to work at the local campus of the University of Nottingham (UNMC), where since 2013 I’m an Associate Professor in Tropical Conservation Ecology. I am the Principal Investigator of the Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME; research project, the President of Asian Section of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB-Asia), and a council member of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC).