Translocation of Wild Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) in Sabah, Malaysia
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 1997
Edwin J. Bosi1, DVM, Mphil; Annelisa M. Kilbourn1,2, DVM; Mahedi Andau1, BSc; Elis Tambing1
1Sabah Wildlife Department, Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia; 2Widlife Health Sciences, Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, NY, New York, USA


The East Malaysian state of Sabah is believed to be home to about 1000 wild Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). Some forest habitat has been lost through agricultural development. In some cases, elephants are stranded in small pockets of forest which are unable to sustain them. The Wildlife Department of Sabah has adopted a policy of capturing and translocating these animals to wildlife forest reserves. The capture of these wild animals is made possible using chemicals such as Immobilon® (etorphine HCl and acepromazine maleate) and Xylazil-100® (xylazine HCl). The reversal agents are Revivon (diprenorphine) and Reverzine (yohimbine) respectively. A recent capture and translocation exercise carried out involving eight wild elephants employed xylazine hydrochloride. The dose of xylazine used was calculated based on the diameter of the front footprint which provides information on body dimensions when actual weights are not available. Xylazine doses used ranged from 100–550 mg with a mean of 0.209 mg/kg body weight. Sedation was observed within 26 min after the darting. The animals were then shackled and tethered. The time for the capture operations ranged from 27–150 min, with a mean of 72 min. Xylazine is used again during the loading of the animals onto the lorries. It is an effective sedative for wild elephants which can be adjusted or reversed. The choice and used of this drug depends entirely on the ability to track the animal after darting and the ability to maneuver the captive elephants into suitable locations for tethering prior to loading. Heavy machinery is required to load the animals, unlike most other wild Asian elephant translocations where trained elephants are used to facilitate loading.


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Edwin J. Bosi, DVM, Mphil
Sabah Wildlife Department
Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia

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