Sabah govt urged to conduct full inquiry into elephant-related death of handler

Wildlife ranger Joe Fred Lansou, 49, who was gored by an elephant at Sabah's Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government should conduct a full inquiry into what triggered a Borneo Pygmy elephant to gore its handler to death on Christmas Day at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park near here.

Local social and environmental activist Jefferi Chang said that a full inquiry was needed to clear the air on the fatal incident which could only occur if the management had the safeguards in place for its personnel to handle wild animals.

"It is an unfortunate incident, but the state must check if the wildlife park management under Sabah Wildlife Department has an active and clearly observed standard operating procedure in place.

"Such incidents are rare in zoos across the world. We must have a full inquiry into it," Chang said, adding that complaints about poor upkeep of the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park and its exhibits have surfaced time and again in the past.

Chang said this following the death of the park's elephant unit head, Joe Fred Lansou, 49, who was gored by an adult elephant within the enclosure at about 8.30am on Friday (Dec 25).

Penampang OCPD Deputy Supt Mohd Haris Ibrahim said that police have classified the case as sudden death and ruled out any foul play.

He said that the victim was treating an injured calf when an adult elephant tusked him on the chest and abdomen. He died at the scene.

Chang said that it was important for the inquiry to look into whether it was suitable to keep the elephants within the zoo enclosure or send them back into the wild or even the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary.

"I believe the space in the wildlife park may not be enough for these elephants. They will be stressed with their movements restricted. This makes them unpredictable.

"We have the death of a ranger now. We cannot take these things lightly," he said.

"Sabah Wildlife Department and the director, have to be answerable for what has happened to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park," he said, adding that the state government must hold an inquiry.

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