KOTA KINABALU: An elephant was found shot and brutally hacked into several parts in what was the third and most cruel death of an endangered Bornean pygmy elephant in the wilds of Sabah this year.
The tusks were ironically left untouched, leaving wildlife rangers wondering about the motive for the killing, which showed signs of brutality that had never been seen in the previous cases.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said the decomposing half-skinned carcass of the elephant was found on the border of Saicheng Plantation near Kampung Imbak in central Sabah's Tongod district at about 8am on Thursday (Jan 21).
He said the elephant was between five and seven years old and could have died about four to five days before it was discovered by the estate workers.
"A post-mortem by Sabah Wildlife Department veterinarians indicated that the elephant was shot at least seven times.
"They found four bullets in the skull of the elephant," he said on Friday (Jan 22).
Tuuga said half of the elephant's carcass was skinned while its head with the tusks was severed and found about 32m away.
"A forelimb was cut off and found about 11m away while the ears were discovered some 6m from the body.
"Its body parts were everywhere. The trunk, however, could not be located," he said.
Tuuga added that it was difficult to say if the killings were done by poachers or people with other motives as it was the first time an elephant was brutally dismembered but the tusks which were of value were not taken.
"It is hard to determine what the motive is. Cannot say for certain because only half of the skin is missing.
"Looks like a retaliatory killing to me because of the mutilated body parts," he said, when asked if poachers were now after elephant skin which fetches good prices on the international black market.
Tuuga said it was the first time they were seeing elephants being skinned and added that so far no one has been detained in connection with the case.
"The weather in the area is bad. It is difficult to move around because of slippery estate roads but we will continue the investigation," he said.
Two other cases involving a calf were reported in Bahagad area in Lahad Datu and another in Kinabatangan.
The cause of death for both cases is still under investigation although poisoning has not been ruled out.