KOTA KINABALU: A concern is growing on whether the mothers of two rescued Borneo Pygmy female elephant calves found wandering in two plantations on Feb 12 were poisoned.
Wildlife rangers have been combing areas to locate the whereabouts of the elephant cows and their herd but have yet to locate any of the herd in the Kinabatangan area.
Amid the spectre of last year's gruesome poisoning deaths of 14 elephants at Gunung Rara forest with only a calf surviving, the latest recovery of two calves is raising questions whether their mothers might have been poisoned in efforts to stop the herds from marauding farms or plantations.
One possibility is that calves were separated from their herd when people or plantation workers tried to shoo them away or in the worst case scenario might been victims of poisoning.
"We really do not know what has happened to the mothers of these babies," Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Laurentius Ambu said on Wednesday.
Ambu said rescued calves were in healthy condition and gaining weight at the care of the Sepilok wildlife medical care in Sandakan.
Ambu said human-elephant conflicts in Sabah have seen a dramatic rise in the past couple of years with number of elephants being killed and poisoned in on an upwards trend.
“We would like to advise all farmers and plantation owners not to take the law in their hands by injuring or killing the elephants.
“We will prosecute anybody because the Bornean elephant is now a totally protected species. We urge everyone to notify us if there are such elephant intrusions in their farms or estates," Ambu said.
The two calf elephants were found in separate locations in Kinabatangan - first a two week old they named Jimbo was found at a plantation located in Sg. Lokan after receiving a report made by the plantation manager.
Workers found him by the river and transferred moved him to elsewhere as the workers were afraid that a crocodile might attack him.
The second one-year-old calve named Tun Tan, was found in a plantation near Sukau and followed a tractor driven by a plantation worker back to the kongsi area where rangers picked it up.
Meanwhile, wildlife rangers expect by Thursday to carry out the trans location of two "fierce'' elephant cows with a herd of about 30 elephants that trampled into farmlands at Kg Buarto close to the Tungkalap Forest reserve in Telupid.
Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said that they hoped to the two female elephants into Dermakot Forest Reserve which is linked to Tungkalap.
The remaining herd would be guided back into Tungkalap reserve, he said, adding that the situation was under control.