Registered Charity in England & Wales No.1165941

Joining Up For The Benefit Of Elephants


Joining Up For The Benefit Of Elephants

At the request of the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), two of the Wild Welfare team were recently invited to join a Technical Working Group (TWG) to develop the Captive Elephant Management Plan (CEMP) for elephants held in Sabah, Malaysia. This group is comprised of invited experts uniting for elephants across the state of Sabah. Margaret Whittaker (Executive Director, Wild Welfare US) and Dave Morgan (Field Director, Wild Welfare) currently sit on the TWG of the Sabah Captive Elephant Management Plan and are participating in the development of the CEMP. The CEMP is an adjunct to the National Sabah Elephant Management Plan and the TWG comprises international and Malaysian elephant experts.

Since 2018, Wild Welfare has partnered with the SWD to develop strategies and conduct training which drive animal welfare improvements for captive animal facilities in Sabah. Lending knowledge and expertise to this specific working group helps ensure that elephant well-being is at the forefront of all decision-making which directly impacts elephant care, management and welfare. Wild Welfare is currently celebrating its ten year anniversary and envisions a world where every captive elephant across Sabah (and all captive animals globally) can thrive and live a good life

At the end of July, the entire TWG, including Dave and Margaret, met in person to review the draft CEMP. As part of this review, they visited the three facilities in Sabah holding elephants. These three facilities currently hold 23 Bornean elephants and include Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, The Bornean Elephant Sanctuary and Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Following the site visits, the entire TWG met for a three-day workshop, and included representatives from the Sabah Wildlife Department, conservation authorities from Peninsula Malaysia, conservation and animal welfare NGOs and other stakeholders with an interest in the CEMP. This workshop provided an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together to identify the challenges facing the management of captive elephants in Sabah, begin to identify strategies to address these challenges, and continue the collaborative partnerships to effectively move the draft CEMP into a final version.

Wild Welfare’s involvement with the TWG is a separate but complimentary project to the focused efforts of the project at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park where capacity building, staff training and enclosure renovations are currently underway with the purpose of improving elephant care standards and practices. Although these projects are separate, our tandem participation in both provides a fundamental benefit for all elephants in Sabah, generously supported by The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. The overarching goal of the CEMP is to provide a strategic framework to support collaborative and informed decision making which will yield enhanced elephant care and welfare across all elephant facilities in Sabah.  Strategic planning is crucial given that every captive elephant in Sabah has come to be under human care as the direct result of human activity either as a rescue or due to human/elephant conflict.

“We were honoured to be included in the TWG and look forward to helping guide changes through the development and implementation of the CEMP.  It’s a powerful experience to participate in a team who are all passionate about working towards the same goals for elephants.” Margaret Whittaker.

Wild Welfare currently works in over 10 different countries, driving forward animal welfare improvements for captive animals in zoos, aquariums, and sanctuaries. The charity is passionate about working collaboratively with facilities and organisations to advance knowledge in animal welfare science and facilitate application of that knowledge to animal care activities.


Notes to Editors

For more information or interview requests please contact Wild Welfare on

Wild Welfare is a global organisation committed to improving animal welfare for captive wild animals. By uniting the world’s leading zoos, zoo associations and animal welfare organisations, we build trusting partnerships that help provide long-term solutions to critical wild animal welfare issues.

Our vision is to end the suffering of captive wild animals around the world and ensure full and sustainable protection is given to all animals in human care. Find out more at Registered charity in England (no.1165941).