KOTA KINABALU: Five endangered pygmy elephants have died in six weeks, with the latest found dead in a plantation in Lahad Datu area on Sunday (Feb 9).
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew said that all deaths point at suspected poisoning but they have yet to ascertain the cause of death, as most toxicology analysis came back inconclusive.
“Though most of these deaths point towards suspected poisoning, which could be intentional or unintentional, no conclusive results could be recovered from the previous toxicology analysis.
“The Sabah Wildlife Department is now working to send these tissue samples for a more in-depth and broad-spectrum toxicology analysis within Malaysia and abroad to find out the source of the toxin.
“This will cost the Sabah government quite a lot, but we will leave no stone unturned in our quest to solve the cause of deaths of the poor elephants, ” said Liew, who is also state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, in a statement on Thursday (Feb 13).
She said the four deaths so far this year involved two adult females, one adult male and a two-year-old young male within the districts of Kinabatangan and Lahad Datu.
The most recent was in Lahad Datu, involving an adult cow that was found dead on Wednesday (Feb 12) in Bagahak, Lahad Datu.
“A post-mortem to ascertain its cause of death was conducted on the same day, ” she added.
She said a young baby elephant that was rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department's Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) after it was found wandering alone in a plantation in Kinabatangan, succumbed to its injuries after two weeks of intensive veterinary care.
Liew said that the human-elephant conflict is not confined just to Sabah, but also occurs throughout the Asian Elephant range countries.
“Take Sri Lanka for instance. In 2019 alone, there were 361 elephant deaths and more than 100 people were killed in the incidence of human-elephant conflict in the same period, compared with Sabah that had 150 elephant deaths from 2010 to 2019 and only four human deaths in that period.
“It just goes to show that although we are experiencing quite serious instances of elephant deaths as a result of the conflict, the situation in Sabah is still under control.
“This is attributed to the cooperation of all parties involved in the conflict as they are equally very much concerned for the plight of the elephants, ” Liew added.
She said they were working with conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and plantation industries in efforts to minimise the human-elephant conflict as much as possible.
It is very important to hear the advice and inputs from not only NGOs, but also from the local communities in solving the conflict in some of our districts in Sabah, she added.
She said that the Sabah state cabinet on Wednesday approved the 10-year Bornean Elephant Action Plan (2020-2029), which further enhanced the protection and conservation of the elephants in Sabah.
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