Sabah's pygmy elephants could be wiped out if nothing is done, says conservationist

Pgymy elephants at a forest reserve in Sabah. Many of the animals have been killed in the past few years after encroaching into oil palm plantations. — Filepic

KOTA KINABALU: The merciless killing of a Bornean pygmy is a clear signal for everyone to buck up or Sabah's elephants could be staring at extinction before the decade is over, a conservationist warns.

Another pygmy elephant killed (

Describing the deaths of three elephants within three weeks of the new year as alarming, conservationist Alexander Yee said that real action needed to be taken as talk of conservation plans had failed to resolve the key problem of elephant deaths.

"It's alarming to learn that three pygmy elephants have died in as many weeks," he said when commenting on the deaths of three elephants, including a bull that was mercilessly butchered in the Tongod district.

Jumbo butchered in suspected retaliatory killing in Sabah (

"What is happening in Sabah is in contrast to worldwide reports of increased wildlife sightings and environmental rejuvenation (during the Covid-19 lockdowns)," said Yee, who is also president of the Kinabatangan Corridor of Life Tourism Operators Association (KITA).

"I hope the Wildlife Department will be able to catch the culprits behind these heinous crime against our iconic gentle giants," Yee said.

He also asked what happened to the Sabah Forestry Department's specially-trained ranger unit that was deployed to Sabah's forests to check on increased wildlife poaching concerns last year.

It comprised some 70 locals, of whom 30 were selected for the anti-poaching Protect Unit of the department through the funding of Sime Darby Foundation.

However, Yee said there was an urgent need for steps to be put in place for an effective wildlife task force to protect all Sabah's wildlife, including the pygmy elephants and other endangered species such as the pangolin and Banteng.

"This wildlife task force should include the collaboration of the enforcement units of the Sabah Forestry Department and Sabah Wildlife Department plus the vast networks of the Wildlife Wardens in Sabah," he said

"Sabah has been blessed with an abundance of floral and fauna and it is everyone's responsibility to protect and conserve them," he said.

Yee said in the previous decade, Sabah had seen the extinction of the rhinoceros which is no longer found in the wild.

"We have to act with all seriousness to ensure that our elephants do not go extinct within the decade," he said, adding that the elephant population is currently estimated to be between 1,500 to 3,000 in Sabah's wilds.

Between 2018 and 2020, some 80 elephants had died with some blamed on poaching, suspected poisoning and natural

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