PETALING JAYA: The latest death of a two-year-old pygmy elephant in Sabah, which succumbed to severe snare-related injuries, is a tragic and worrying sign, say wildlife conservation groups.
Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants principal investigator Dr Wong Ee Phin said snares, like the one that had caused the elephant calf’s injured foot to be amputated, were usually used because they were cheap.
“However, snares kill indiscriminately.
“I don’t think whoever set the snare intended to catch an elephant, but many times elephants get caught in the snares and may lose their foot or trunk, or even starve to death at the snare.
“Sometimes poachers may build fences to funnel the animals to the snares,” she said.
Wong shared her experience of visiting the Huai Kha Kaeng wildlife enforcement team in Thailand, whereby the patrol team would sometimes encounter snare guns which are dangerous not only to animals but to humans as well.
To curb poaching, Wong, who is also Society for Conservation Biology Malaysia president, said awareness for wildlife conservation was necessary.
“Malaysia is one of the most megadiverse countries in the world and it is important for us to protect this treasure of biodiversity,” she said.
Wong said continuing wildlife enforcement efforts were also important.
She said there had been some positive news on wildlife enforcement and anti-poaching efforts in Peninsular Malaysia, in particular from the Royal Belum State Park, which enlists the help of Orang Asli wildlife patrol members.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president Meenakshi Raman said the fact that the baby elephant was injured by a trap suggested that poachers were targeting innocent animals.
“The loopholes in the laws have to be plugged and the animals must be accorded greater protection, as clearly something is amiss.
“SAM has been calling for stronger measures to be taken, including against plantation companies that resort to harming these animals as humans encroach into their habitats,” she said.
She added that the Sabah Wildlife Department alone might not have adequate resources to conduct protection efforts.
Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) president Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail said more could be done to save elephants and other wildlife such as orang utan, sun bear and proboscis monkey through public education and awareness on wildlife conservation and protection.
“Participation among planters on habitat conservation, protection and restoration is also needed,” he said.
Many planters in Sabah were also promoting habitat protection for wildlife as they believed wildlife protection and conservation would benefit them too for other opportunities such as ecotourism, he said.
Prof Ahmad suggested that the government should consider giving incentives to those participating in wildlife conservation.
“Malaysia is also in need of more research to understand the behaviour of animals such as their roaming areas, feeding habits and types of food,” he said, adding that such knowledge would lead to effective habitat management.
“We need to engage more experts. We need to identify the issues of human-wildlife conflict and minimise the conflicts such as crop damage by elephants and poaching.”
Traffic Southeast Asia said the elephant calf was yet another of the thousands of wildlife injured or killed by snares that litter South-East Asia’s forests.
“Snares are indiscriminate killers, killing anything that crosses its path, even endangered elephants such as this one,” it said in a post.
The Wildlife and National Parks Department previously said incidents of human and wildlife conflict had risen since the Covid-19 movement control order was lifted while crimes against wildlife were also expected to increase this year.