KUALA LUMPUR  - Wildlife researchers have fitted three Bornean elephants with satellite collars in Malaysia's Sabah state, marking the beginning of the first study of their "virtually unknown" social structure. A conservation biologist in charge of the project said studies on the genetic aspects of the Bornean elephant have been carried out in the past but "we have yet to study their social structure which is virtually unknown." "The collaring of the elephants is to enhance our access to them," said Nurzhafarina Othman, of the Danau Girang Field Centre. "We will carry out actual observation and collect DNA information via the faeces of particular individuals," she said in a statement over the weekend. But Nurzhafarina said the bulk of the four-year study in the Kinabatangan floodplain will be done with the Elephant Conservation Unit (ECU). The ECU, founded to address the issue of human-elephant conflict in 2002, will spend hundreds of man-hours tracking these specific elephants for this landmark study, she said. Sulaiman Ismail who heads the ECU said the study on the elephants would include ascertaining their mating system, assessing paternity within elephant groups and identifying alpha males. This data in turn will assist the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) in managing the Kinabatangan elephant population. "We are wildlife managers, the more information we have, the more efficiently we can manage the elephants," said Senthilvel Nathan, the department's chief field veterinarian.