KOTA KINABALU: It was not the doing of poachers after all – two plantation guards engaged to keep wildlife away from company grounds turned their weapons on a Borneo pygmy elephant and sawed off its tusks.
These are the initial findings of the police after they arrested six suspects – including the two guards – in a series of arrests since 12.40am Wednesday (Oct 2) around Kalabakan in Sabah's south-western Tawau district.
Tawau district police chief Asst Comm Peter Umbuas said they believed that they have recovered the tusks that were sawn off the bull elephant that was found riddled with about 70 bullet wounds at Sungai Udin close to a Felda plantation on Sept 25.
"We believe both police and the Wildlife Department have solved the elephant-killing case.
"We believe it was a two-in-one motive. One was to protect the plantation and after it was killed, they decided to take the tusks," he said, adding that investigations were still underway.
ACP Umbuas said that the six suspects – five locals and an illegal immigrant aged between 48 and 68 – were arrested in a series of operations in the Felda Umas 4 area of Kalabakan till noon Tuesday (Oct 1).
When asked if the plantation company had allowed its guards to kill the elephants, ACP Umbuas said that they were still investigating.
"We believe that the elephant was killed because the guards could not keep it off the grounds," he said.
He said that they were being investigated for several offences under the Firearms Act including illegal possession of a homemade gun while the Sabah Wildlife Department is probing them under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment for killing a protected species, that carries a maximum five years jail and RM250,000 fine if convicted.
He said police seized an assorted number of legal and illegal guns as well as bullets from the suspects, who are expected to be brought to court for remand on Thursday (Oct 3).
The three guns seized were a licensed Iver Johnson Single Barrel 30", a homemade air rifle and homemade shotgun known locally as a Bakakuk.
Police also seized an assortment of some 75 bullets and spent shells as well as a box of air rifle pellets during the raids on the suspects' houses between 12.20am and 4am Wednesday.
Other items seized included a licence book for gun ownership and bullets that were used to legally buy the gun and bullets, ACP Umbuas said.
On whether the ivory was to be sold, he said it was difficult to say if it was put on sale as investigations were still at an early stage.
As to why there were so many shots fired at the elephant, he said the suspect had claimed that many did not penetrate the elephant's skin but it was clear that the motive was to kill it.
He said police believe that they shot the elephant and then tied it up to take the tusks.
On whether the tip off came following the RM30,000 reward offered, he said they received a tip-off from a man.
"I did not meet him," ACP Umbuas added.