KOTA KINABALU: Identifying the source of poisoning and improving the layout of the electric fencing are among key tasks that need to be tackled quickly in overcoming the deaths of Borneo pygmy elephants.
A Sabah-based conservationist Dr Marc Ancrenaz said the post-mortems had yet to give a conclusive cause over the jumbo’s recent deaths, though suspicion was that it might be poisoning of their food and water sources.
“What is happening now is that most of these elephants are coming out of the forests to forage and may be consuming water and food sources that might be contaminated by fertilisers or chemicals,” he said.
“We need to find the source of the poisoning. So far, investigators cannot pinpoint any poison in the dead elephants’ blood stream.”
Dr Ancrenaz is the executive director of Hutan, a Kinabatangan-based NGO that works with local communities to address human-wildlife conflict.
A total of 18 pygmy elephants have died since April. The motive behind more than half of the deaths could not be ascertained.
The others were killed by hunters’ traps or died due to natural causes.
Dr Ancrenaz said another concern was the setting up of electric fences haphazardly by plantation and farm owners.
“These elephants sometimes manage to slip through the gaps between the electric fences, but could not get out of the fenced area, causing further human-elephant conflict,” he said.
Dr Ancrenaz said such electric fencing should be placed with an overview of the landscape to minimise conflicts triggered by fragmented forests in the elephants’ natural roaming area.
Noting that the state government was setting up a task force to look into the deaths, Dr Ancrenaz said it was important to get advice from experts handling the human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India.
Though Sabah’s wild elephant population is only about 1,500 to 2,000, he said they were breeding well.