January 16, 2009

Elephant Population Larger than Previously Estimated

A new survey has shown that more than 600 endangered Asian elephants are living in Malaysia's biggest national park.

Researchers from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society and Malaysia Department of Wildlife and National Parks discovered what could be the largest collection of endangered elephants in Southeast Asia.

Researchers were surprised at the results of the new survey, which estimates that 631 animals are living in Taman Negara National Park.
Taman Negara is "one of the great strongholds for Asian elephants in Southeast Asia," said Melvin Gumal, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's conservation programs in Malaysia.

The group formed their estimate based on the amount of dung piles in the region from 2006 to 2007.

"It is hard to estimate the number of elephants by just looking at them because the rain forest is very lush. The elephants will find you faster than you see them," Gumal said.

Asian elephants are endangered due to habitat loss and poaching. Experts estimate that between 30,000 and 50,000 could still remain in 13 Asian countries, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"The surveys reveal the importance of Taman Negara in protecting wildlife especially those species that need large home ranges," Abdul Rasid Samsudin, the director general of Malaysia's Department of Wildlife and National Parks, said in a statement.

Asian elephants differ from African elephants in that they range in weight from about 8,000 pounds to 14,000 pounds, and have a trunk tip with one finger-like projections, whereas the African elephant weighs between 6,000 pounds and 12,000 pounds and has two finger-like projections.


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