By BORNEOTODAY REPORTERS
KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department is denying that the dead Borneon Pygmy elephant, found dead in an oil palm plantation in Dumpas, Tawau, was killed for its tusks.
However, it did not explain why the department had tried to cover up the news of the killing of the elephant whose carcass was discovered by workers on September 10.
Augustine Tuuga, the SWD Director, only issued a statement on Thursday after BorneoToday had exposed the killings – in Dumpas as well as another in Upper Kinabatangan area – to confirm two more elephants had died.
It is however believed that the Dumpas plantation is situated within or near the government-linked company, Sabah Softwoods Sdn Bhd.
BorneoToday also stands by its story that the tusks of both adult elephants were sawn off.
In a brief statement Thursday, Tuuga said: “The death of the elephants is true but the death of the elephant in Dumpas not due to poaching. There was no external injury; sample was taken for further analysis.
“The one in Kinabatangan is believed to have been killed by poachers upstream the Kinabatangan then thrown into river. Still trying to find out where could it have been killed. A bit difficult to find out because the length of the river. We just try our best to find out and continue investigation.”
In a second statement Thursday night, Tuuga said the elephant carcass that was found floating in the Kinabatangan river was likely killed by experienced poachers due to the clean cut removal of its tusks and left hind leg.
He said that the 15 to 20 year-old bull elephant was believed to have died or been killed three days earlier before being dumped in the river where it was eventually spotted by a group of tourists on Monday.
“Initial inspection found that both tusks with evidence that they were cleanly cut off. The left hind limb was also missing with clean cut signs with a sharp object. Part of the skin of the left side of the body was removed with a sharp object,” he was quoted saying.
Tuuga said that a post mortem done on the pachyderm did not find any evidence of gunshot on the body which led to beliefs that it may have been caught in a snare trap that eventually caused it to die of exhaustion.
The carcass was first reported by a tourist guide who was with a group of four foreign tourists on a river cruise near the tributary of Sungai Koyah at around 11am on Monday.
“Investigation is now focused on finding the possible area where the elephant died or been killed upstream the Kinabatangan river where the carcass was thrown into,” he said.
On the Dumpas case, Tuuga said there were no gunshot wounds nor visible signs of injury and authorities have taken samples of its vital organs to determine its cause of death.
There have been about six reported pachyderm deaths in Sabah this year, including that of a rare, inverted-tusk elephant early in the year.
Last month, a female elephant died of multiple gunshot wounds near a forest reserve.
WWF-Malaysia called for more trained rangers to be stationed on the ground to help protect Sabah’s endangered wildlife from poachers.
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