KOTA KINABALU: Sabah continues to grapple with mysterious “poison” deaths of its Bornean pygmy elephants as 2019 wraps up with another jumbo dead.
A bull elephant, aged around five years, was found by workers at an oil palm plantation in Ladang Malangking in Sukau area of Kinabatangan on Christmas evening.
It is believed to have ingested some type of poison.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga, who confirmed that an elephant was found dead in Kinabatangan, declined to give further details.
Kinabatangan wildlife officers have lodged a police report, stating also that samples had been taken from the dead elephant for further laboratory analysis to find out the cause of death.
It is learned that the elephant was found dead around 3.40pm on Christmas Day.
A wildlife team conducted a post-mortem that indicated that the generally healthy elephant died due to poison consumption.
Over 40 elephants have died from poaching, human-elephant conflict and natural causes in the past 24 months.
More than half the numbers are believed to have succumbed to an unknown source of poisoning that has left conservationists here baffled.
The Sabah government is working with a special elephant action group to deal with the elephant killings and human-elephant conflicts.
This is urgent for the conservation of the Bornean elephants whose numbers are estimated to be around 1,500 to 2,200.
Amid the gloom about the future of the elephants, Wildlife Rescue Unit rangers on Friday saved a calf that fell into a mud hole under a broken bridge in Kinabatangan.
Rangers dug around the hole to make it bigger and physically pulled out the calf and released it.
It has since been reunited with its mother in a plantation.
“The mother cow came and took its baby calf back to the herd and left the area, ” state wildlife assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said in a posting on Facebook.
He said the Kinabatangan-based rescue team had opted to widen the hole so that it could bring out the calf, as the team could not wait for the arrival of a backhoe.
The mother and the rest of the herd remained in the area during the rescue operations.
Sabah’s conservation groups had their saddest moment this year with the death of the last known Sumatran rhino, Iman, earlier this month.
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