Sabah elephant death toll rises again, with two new cases

A team from the Sabah WIldlife Department conducts a post-mortem on one of the elephant carcasses. — Picture courtesy of Sabah WIldlife Department
A team from the Sabah WIldlife Department conducts a post-mortem on one of the elephant carcasses. — Picture courtesy of Sabah WIldlife Department

KOTA KINABALU, Feb 10 — Elephant deaths in the state continue to rise with two new cases reported over the weekend.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga confirmed that two elephant carcasses were found in different parts of Sabah’s east coast.

“One was in a plantation — Ladang Sentosa, Sukau on Saturday. I just received initial information on the other one today — Ladang Tangkulap in IOI, bordering Dermakot forest reserve which was reported today,” he said via a WhatsApp message.

Tuuga said that a team had conducted a post-mortem on one of the elephants and was in the process of conducting another on the second elephant.

Initial investigations found no external wounds on both adult female Borneo pygmy elephants.

Many of the post-mortem results on deceased elephants recently have come back inconclusive as to the cause, although authorities believe the animals were poisoned.

“Even chemical analysis cannot conclude anything. Will look for other expert labs,” said Tuuga.

The spate of elephant deaths in Sabah in recent years has caused conservationists to be concerned with their dwindling population numbers.

According to the state Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, there have been 145 elephant deaths since 2010, with 20 deaths within the first 10 months of 2019, and about 40 in the last two years.

The rising incidence of human and wildlife conflict among villagers, plantation workers and the elephants are believed to be the reason for their poisoning as well as poaching for their tusks.

The Borneo pygmy elephant is a subspecies of the Asian elephant that is endemic to Borneo, in Indonesia, and Sabah.

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