KOTA KINABALU: Four more Borneo Pygmy elephants, including a cow and its calf shot by poachers, have died over the weekend, with a fifth injured by snare traps in the state's east coast.
The latest deaths bring to 24 the number of elephants killed since April this year, with shocked wildlife officials and conservationists despairing of ever finding a solution.
According to sources, the dead pygmy elephants involved a cow and its calf, while another died after a tree fell on it, and a fourth was found dead, though the cause is not known.
The fifth is being treated for snare wounds. The incident occurred in the Lahad Datu and Kinabatangan areas.
An air of official silence hovers over the latest deaths and it understood that a full probe is under way by Sabah Wildlife Department.
With an estimated 1,500 elephants left in Sabah’s wild, conservationists are hoping for more tougher action to be taken by the Wildlife and state Forestry Department in tackling poaching and other problems.
Without referring to the latest deaths, on Tuesday (Aug 28), WWF Malaysia said that more elephants were dying despite actions taken by the enforcement authorities and NGOs to end the problem in Sabah.
Noting that some 25 elephants died since the beginning of 2018, WWF said that at least four have died due to snare trap-related injuries at plantations around Sg Taliwas Forest Reserve and Sapagaya Forest Reserve.
WWF-Malaysia together with the Sabah Forestry Department and the Sabah Wildlife Department have worked together to conduct joint anti -snaring operations (Ops Jerat) to remove snares in the forest reserves that are bordering plantations.
A total of five operations have been carried out and have so far unearthed 25 snares in forest reserves, 16 hunting platforms in both forest reserves and surrounding plantations, and five pitfall traps that measured about seven feet deep.
WWF Malaysia will continue the Ops Jerat collaboration with the government, particularly in identified poaching hot spots.
WWF Malaysia said that snares are commonly used by poachers, where they are placed along animal trails in forest reserves bordering plantations with the intention of catching wild boars and deer.
“Though elephants are very rarely the target of poachers, they commonly fall victim to these devices.
“This is because elephants use the same trails as other wildlife causing them to become a product of by-catch since snares indiscriminately kill wildlife,” WWF said.
“The time has come for someone to shoulder the responsibility for the death of elephants, especially those occurring on their land.
"In order to stop the premature deaths of one of Borneo’s most iconic species, strong actions must be taken and they must be taken now,” WWF added.