Sabah ramps up hunt for poachers


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah wildlife investigators are keeping tight-lipped on the case of the cruel killing of a Borneo pygmy elephant as they ramp up the hunt for poachers involved in the killing of the animal.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said investigators were hopeful of making a breakthrough in the probe into the death of the elephant in Tawau last week that shocked conservationists in the country.

“We are hopeful,” Tuuga said of the investigations being carried out with the police to track down the culprits who brutally shot the bull elephant at least 70 times before it died at Sungai Udin, Tawau.

The elephant’s tusks were missing.

Tuuga said there were no leads as yet.

It is understood that a major operation on the case is being carried out by Sabah Wildlife with the help of police.

Meanwhile, Britain-based NGO Orangutan Appeal founder Sue Sherward pledged RM10,000 to the reward pool money, increasing the amount to RM30,000, for information leading to the capture or prosecution of the poachers.

On Monday, Sabah Wildlife offered a reward of RM10,000 while an anonymous donor added another RM10,000 to the amount.

“I would like to pledge RM10,000 into the reward pool for any information that will lead to the successful capture and prosecution of the elephant poachers.

“This is the right thing to do and I hope more Malaysians will step up and assist in capturing the cruel elephant poachers,” Sherward said.

She described the killing of the bull as “heinous and shocking”.

She said the reward was part of her pledge to Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal when she met him last year to discuss assistance to help the state in its conservation activities.

She said she was saddened how the bull elephant was shot after she was briefed by Sabah Wildlife Department’s assistant director Dr Sen Nathan, who said that it was the worst case of cruelty he had seen after he conducted the post-mortem on the elephant.

The Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry has also stepped in to assist the Wildlife Department to track down the suspects.

In a statement yesterday, the ministry described the killing of the 2.79m-tall bull elephant as a cruel and inhumane act against wildlife.

Sabah’s Borneo pygmy elephants are considered as endangered species, with only 1,500 to 2,000 believed to be still in the wild in the state.

They remain under threat, not only from poachers, but also from human-elephant conflict with opening up of land for agriculture purposes in the east coast of Sabah.

In previous elephant poaching or killing cases, Sabah Wildlife has never been able to track down the suspects and most culprits have managed to evade the authorities.

Indonesian Customs officials have detained a few people after they found elephant tusks being smuggled into the country by returning Indonesian workers.

They claimed that they were being used as dowry gifts for marriages.

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