Jumbo mystery: Two more Borneo pygmy elephants die to unknown causes

  • Nation
  • Monday, 10 Feb 2020

An adult female elephant was dead in the Tangkulap plantation close to the Dermakot Forest Reserve in Sandakan on Monday

KOTA KINABALU: Two more of Sabah's endangered Borneo pygmy elephants were found dead in plantations as the Sabah Wildlife Department continues to grapple to find causes behind the many deaths of the animal over the last few years.

The latest two were an adult female at Ladang Sentosa in Sukau on Saturday (Feb 8) and another adult female discovered Monday morning (Feb 10) at Ladang Tongkulap close to the Dermakot Forest Reserve in Sandakan.

It is the third death investigated this year while a total 25 were reported to have died last year.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said that there were no visible wounds on the two elephants and post-mortems were being carried out to ascertain the cause of death of the two animals.

"The team have completed the post-mortem on the elephant found dead in Sukau and are on their way to carry out a similar post-mortem near the forest reserve," he said.

However, he did not want to speculate on the cause of death of the latest two elephants pending full post-mortem reports.

Over the past two years, Sabah has seen more than 50 elephants dead for unknown reasons, although some kind of poisoning – apart from poaching and natural causes – is suspected.

Both the Department officials and conservationists remain baffled over the deaths as chemical analyses were inconclusive on the cause of the deaths.

Asked if the state wildlife was getting any closer to finding out the source of poisoning that has been seeing healthy elephants dropping dead over the past 24 months, Tuuga said that they were still at a loss over the cause.

"Even chemical analysis (done on previous elephant deaths) could not conclude anything. We will look for other expert labs," he said.

There is speculation however, that the deaths could be linked to fertilisers or pesticides used in plantations or from consuming natural poisons.

Local laboratories have been used to carry out chemical analysis of the dead elephants and all have been inconclusive so far.

Earlier this year, the Department also investigated another elephant death at a plantation in Sukau after it was discovered that the elephant was buried within the estate without informing of the death to the department, as mandated by law.

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