KOTA KINABALU: It’s only 22 days into the new year and Sabah has already lost three endangered Bornean pygmy elephants, with the latest having been shot and butchered.
Those responsible for dismembering the animal had left its tusks at the scene, which has wildlife authorities wondering if this was an act of cruelty rather than poaching.
The sheer brutality of the crime has left wildlife rangers stunned.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said the animal was found at the boundary of the Saicheng Plantation, near Kampung Imbak, in central Sabah’s Tongod district at about 8am on Thursday.
He said half the body had been skinned, while the head – with its tusks still intact – had also been severed and found about 32m away from the body.
Tuuga said a forelimb was cut off and found about 11m away while ears were also cut off and discovered 6m away. The trunk could not be located, he added.
He said the animal, found in a decomposed state, was between five and seven years old and could have died about four to five days prior to being discovered by estate workers.
Sabah Wildlife Department veterinarians, who conducted a post-mortem, found the elephant had been shot seven times. Four bullets were found in the skull.
Tuuga said it is difficult to say if the killing was the work of poachers or people with other motives as this was first time an elephant was so brutally cut up and its tusks not taken.
“It is hard to say what the motive is, ” he said.
He also noted this was first time they had come across a case where someone had tried to skin an elephant and he was uncertain if poachers were after the hide for the illicit international market.
“We cannot say for certain because only half of the body’s skin was missing. Looks like retaliatory killing to me because of the mutilated body parts, ” he said.
He said so far, wildlife investigators have yet to detain anyone in connection to the case as their investigations have been hampered by bad weather.
Two other cases this year involving elephant calves were reported in the Bahagad area in Lahad Datu and another in Kinabatangan.
The cause of death in both cases is still under investigation although poisoning has not been ruled out.