Two newborn out of 7 elephants killed in tragic accident in Tawau

A sorry site at the mud pool near the Berkat Saga Timber Camp, a timber concession area in Rinukut, Tawau which saw seven Pygmy elephants come to a tragic end. - Photo courtesy of the Sabah Wildlife Department
A sorry site at the mud pool near the Berkat Saga Timber Camp, a timber concession area in Rinukut, Tawau which saw seven Pygmy elephants come to a tragic end. – Photo courtesy of the Sabah Wildlife Department

TAWAU – Seven pygmy elephants died, while two others were rescued, after they became stuck in a mud pool near a logging site in Tawau, a state wildlife official said Wednesday.

Five of the elephants – two adults, one juvenile and two newborn – were already dead when wildlife officers found them on Saturday, trapped in the mud pool in the remote village of Tawau, state wildlife director Augustine Tuuga said in a statement.

The two others had to be euthanised because they were already very weak, severely dehydrated and blind, he added.

The pachyderms could have been stuck in the 3-metre deep mud pool near Berkat Saga Timber Camp, a timber concession area in Rinukut, for a week, according to Tuuga.

“The elephants could have possibly gone into the mud pool to cool themselves and bathe, but had not anticipated the depth and thickness of the mud, which became like quicksand,” he said.

Wildlife Rescue Unit rangers assisting one of weak elephant to come out of the pool. - Photo courtesy of the Sabah Wildlife Department
Wildlife Rescue Unit rangers assisting one of weak elephant to come out of the pool. – Photo courtesy of the Sabah Wildlife Department

Tuuga said his office had to use heavy equipment from the Berkat Saga camp to rescue the two adult elephant survivors, which, after being pulled out to safety, eventually ran back into the forest.

To prevent further similar mishaps, the whole pool was covered up with soil.

“I would like to advice any parties who may have made similar excavations to fill in or fence up these areas if they are no longer in use,” added Tuuga, saying this could prevent possible recurrence especially in areas frequented by elephants.

Pygmy elephants are a protected species in Malaysia. However, their numbers are dwindling due to destruction of their natural habitats.

An SWD official pointing to the dead jumbos when the rescue team first arrived. - Photo courtesy of the Sabah Wildlife Department
An SWD official pointing to the dead jumbos when the rescue team first arrived. – Photo courtesy of the Sabah Wildlife Department
After rescue work was completed the mud pool was covered up with soil to prevent a similar accident from happening. - Photo courtesy of the Sabah Wildlife Department
After rescue work was completed the mud pool was covered up with soil to prevent a similar accident from happening. – Photo courtesy of the Sabah Wildlife Department