Simple but highly deadly traps

KOTA KINABALU: A type of simple trap to catch wild boar or deer in the forest has caused untold suffering to Sabah’s iconic wildlife species.

The illegal traditional trap hunters make from rope or wire mesh causes severe and painful injuries to wild animals.

The latest agonising death of a two-year-old Borneo pygmy elephant calf after its foot was snared in such a trap has again raised concerns by authorities and conservationists over the problem that has troubled wildlife conservation for decades.

Kinabatangan-based Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said the snares were usually artisanal types made from rope or wire mesh.

“They can injure wildlife very badly and we have observed severe injuries on a number of species, such as Borneo pygmy elephants, banteng and sun bears, among others,” he said.

These elephants usually suffered injuries to their front feet or even in some cases their trunks, he added.

“They don’t always die, but they suffer from severe wounds and they struggle to follow their group.

“In the case of young elephants, the injury can be more deadly because their legs are still small, and they also struggle to follow their group or find food. For a lactating baby, it can be dramatic,” he said.

Goossens said it was a mammoth job to clear such traps, which is carried out from time to time.

“Whenever anti-poaching teams carry out patrols, they also look for snares and remove them. When we find any in the field area in Kinabatangan, we remove them too,” he said.

On Tuesday, a rescued female calf with its foot nearly severed from a trap died a day after veterinarians amputated its front foot.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin said the Wildlife Department had been clearing illegal traps in forest reserves such as the Tabin Wildlife Reserve under the Khazanah Integrated Operation (OBK).

However, he said the snare clearing work was limited to the Responsibility Area for the OBK operations.

Investigations on hunters who use snares are quite difficult unless the authorities obtain accurate information on their activities.

As of Thursday, 15 elephants had been reported dead.

Two of them died due to snares, Jafry said, adding that among other causes of the other deaths were EEHV (elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus) disease or viral infections and possible poisoning.Sabah’s elephant population is estimated to be around 1,500 to 2,000.

They have been threatened by habitat loss through forest fragmentation, hunting and poaching, among others, including human-elephant conflicts.

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