Bid To Unravel Truth Behind Jumbo Poisoning Deaths

By ARDYHANSAH AMAT
TAWAU: A full investigation is underway to determine whether foul play or natural causes were to blame for the string of deaths involving Borneo pygmy elephants over the past decade due to poisoning.

The Sabah Wildlife Department is now working closely with the country’s National Poison Centre (NPC) to get to the bottom of this matter.

DR SEN

Wildlife Assistant Director Dr Sen Nathan said in the past 10 years, 150 elephants have died and that one-third, or between 50 and 60 of the elephant deaths, involved poisoning,

“There are many probabilities for the source of the poison – it can be from plants or fruits, or the plantation sector – including deliberate acts or not,” he said here today.

He pointed out a detailed probe was needed because the number of deaths is considered high.

In a related development, Sen said he was aware of concerns by certain quarters over the translocation of pygmy elephants to the Gunung Rara forest reserve where poisoning of elephants had been reported before.

Towards this end, he said the animals are at risk no matter where they are placed.

“That is why we are fixing satellite collars on the elephants before they are let go into the jungle, this will help track their movement including the locations in the event of death,” he said.

He added the department will be able to look at the animals’ trails with the use of the collars and research where they had possibly come in contact with poison.

“Based on a field study 12 years ago, the Borneo pygmy elephant population (in Sabah) was estimated to be more than 2,000, with some 600 at the Gunung Rara forest reserve.

“There will be a new study on the animal’s habitat scheduled for this August to find out methods to reduce the elephant-human conflict,” Sen said.

In January 2013, several wildlife officers including Sen had stumbled upon a juvenile Borneo pygmy elephant which was trying to move its dead mother which had died due to poisoning at Gunung Rara.

The team was investigating the mystery behind the death of 10 elephants at FMU 23 in the Yayasan Sabah concession area, about 130km from here.

On April 8 this year, another juvenile elephant, believed aged between five and 10, was found dead at the Malua forest reserve in Lahad Datu, also suspected due to poisoning.