Chemicals discovered at site where 14 pygmy elephants were found dead

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 19 Feb 2013

KOTA KINABALU: The deaths of the 14 pygmy elephants at the Gunung Rara forest reserve is most likely caused by poisoning from pesticides.

Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) researchers found chemicals such as cyanide and sulphur on the site where the elephants were found.

However, it could not be determined whether the poisoning had been deliberate.

BCT conservation and research head Raymond Alfred said traces of both chemicals could have contaminated the food sources of the animals near the area but there was no evidence that it was done intentionally.

“Cyanide could be traced in certain pesticides whereas sulphur is normally used by local hunters or Indonesian workers hunting wild boars at the edge of plantations near the forest,” he said.

“However, no evidence had been gathered to show that the elephants were poisoned during their encroachment or presence along the Ulu Sungai Napagon and Imbok rivers at the area where the elephants were discovered,” he said.

“And there is also no concrete evidence showing that the logging contractors were using high amounts of pesticides to kill the elephants,” he said.

Ten dead elephants were first discovered on Dec 29 and more were eventually found dead, bringing the total number to 14.

Raymond said that elephants were very alert creatures which could sense danger.

He also explained that the elephants had encroached into the plantations sited within the Gunung Rara and Kalabakan Forest Reserve to gain access to water source and salt lick.

Electrical fences put up by the plantations which, however, malfunctioned could have also enabled the elephants access into the plantations, he said.

Raymond said the degradation and fragmentation of their habitat had been a major threat to the Bornean elephants.

The fragmentation of the animals' habitat had led to increasing humanelephant conflicts at Lower Kinabatangan, he said.

Raymond stressed on the need to establish forest corridors or to strengthen existing ones.

“The corridors don't necessarily have to be established at prime elephant habitats.

“It could be established at degraded forest areas to facilitate and not restrict the elephants' movement and to provide the elephants with some cover,” he said.

He said the BCT and the Sabah Wildlife Department were preparing a plan outlining requirements for each plantation to establish a wildlife conservation unit.

Apart from that, the programme aims to initiate a monitoring programme to assess the status of the elephant population as well as manage and restore degraded forest corridors, particularly those within the DaMaI (Danum Valley, Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon) area.

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