Endangered elephants believed poisoned
Ten endangered pygmy elephants had been found dead this month in Malaysian Borneo and it is believed they were poisoned, conservation officials said yesterday.
Wildlife authorities in Sabah, a state on the eastern tip of the island, have formed a task force with the police and World Wide Fund for Nature to investigate the deaths.
Laurentius Ambu, Sabah wildlife department director, said his department had received a report on Wednesday last week that there were four dead pygmy elephants in the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve.
Officials were "shocked" to find another four of the animals, a rare sub-species of the Asian elephant, dead or dying after inspecting the area for two days, he said.
"Early this year two highly decomposed elephant carcasses were found in the general vicinity of where these eight animals were found. We believe that the deaths of all these elephants are related," he said.
Sen Nathan, the department's senior veterinarian, said "we highly suspect" the animals died due to poisoning after severe ulceration and bleeding was found in their digestive tracts.
"It was a very sad sight to see all those dead elephants, especially one of the dead females who had a very young calf of about three months old. The calf was trying to wake the dead mother up," he said.
Masidi Manjun, the state's environment minister, vowed to take tough action.
"If indeed these poor elephants were maliciously poisoned I would personally make sure that the culprits was brought to justice and made to pay for their crime," he said.
There are fewer than 2000 Borneo pygmy elephants - which are smaller and have more rounded features than other Asian elephants - left in the wild, according to authorities.
Activists warn that pygmy elephants are fast losing their natural habitat to deforestation and human encroachment on Borneo.