Expert: Inaction may kill off Sabah’s jumbos

KOTA KINABALU: The recent horrific slaughter of a jumbo is a danger sign that Sabah’s Bornean pygmy elephants could be staring at extinction before the decade is over, a conservationist has warned.

Describing the deaths of three such elephants in early days of the new year as alarming, Alexander Yee said it was time to match words with deeds as mere lip service and talk of conservation plans had failed to stop the killings.

“It is alarming to learn that three pygmy elephants have been killed in January, ” he said when commenting on the deaths of three elephants, including most recently a bull that was butchered in Tongod district.

He said events in Sabah contrasted with worldwide reports of increased wildlife sightings and environmental rejuvenation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I hope the Wildlife Department will be able to nab those behind these heinous crimes against our iconic gentle giants, ” said Yee, who is president of the Kinabatangan Corridor of Life Tourism Operators Association (Kita).

He wanted to know what happened to the Sabah Forestry Department’s specially trained ranger unit that was deployed to check on increased wildlife poaching last year.

It comprises 70 people, with 30 selected for the anti-poaching protection unit of the department with funding from the Sime Darby Foundation.

Yee said it was vital to protect all Sabah’s wildlife, including the pygmy elephants and other endangered species such as the pangolin and banteng, adding that a wildlife taskforce should include the enforcement units of the Sabah Forestry and Sabah Wildlife departments.

“Sabah has been blessed with an abundance of flora and fauna and it is everyone’s responsibility to protect and conserve them, ” he added.

Yee said in the previous decade, the state saw the extinction of the rhinoceros, which is no longer found in the wild.

“We have to act firmly to ensure that our elephants do not go extinct this decade, ” he added.

Former deputy chief minister Datuk Christina Liew said the brutal killing of the pygmy elephant should be thoroughly investigated by the wildlife authorities and police.

Liew said that all efforts must be done to catch the culprits.

“I denounce this heartless and despicable act. We cannot tolerate such gruesome killing of animals, ” said Liew, who is Tawau MP and Api Api assemblywoman.

The elephant population is estimated to be anything between 1,500 and 3,000 in Sabah’s forests.

Between 2018 and 2020, some 80 elephants died due to either poaching, suspected poisoning or natural causes.

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