Will There Ever Be Any Justice For Sabah’s Elephants? Don’t Keep Silent

Photo courtesy of WWF Malaysia

IF THE PUBLIC CHOOSES TO REMAIN SILENT, IT SENDS A STRONG SIGNAL TO THE POACHERS THAT SABAHANS ARE SUPPORTING THE MURDER OF THEIR ELEPHANTS

COMMENT: WWF-Malaysia, HUTAN and Danau Girang Field Centre are horrified by the death of another elephant, its tusks and meat cut by poachers (“Gruesome finds rile up diehard wildlife devotees; authorities silent!!” – Borneo Today, 28 September 2017).

There are three main reasons why Sabah’s elephants keep ending up dead: a huge demand for ivory, human-elephant conflict, and because no one has ever been caught and prosecuted for killing an elephant.

The last 12 months have been cruel to elephants and Sabah appears to be the graveyard of at least six reported pachyderm deaths. In October 2016, a bull’s carcass was found in Kinabatangan.

In December 2016, two bulls were discovered dead and their tusks missing in a plantation bordering the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve – one of them was a bull nicknamed ‘Sabre” due to its unique inward-facing tusks. In August 2017, a female elephant was gunned down in a plantation in Kinabatangan.

Then there was the death of a bull in a plantation in Dumpas, Tawau earlier this month, followed by the floating carcass in Kinabatangan River that made the news on 28 September 2017.

Everyone in Sabah needs to see wildlife crime as a serious crime, on par with the murder of humans, because as it is, we don’t seem to care too much that poachers kept getting away scot-free every time they murder our beloved elephants. Their brazenness is a huge mockery of the species’ Totally Protected status and the legally-protected status of our forest reserves and conservation areas.

What good is Kinabatangan, which we loudly proclaimed as our “Gift to the Earth”, without its wildlife? Can we even guarantee that our elephants will not be extinct before this decade is over, let alone ensure that Sabah’s future generation will not be denied the chance to know these majestic mammals?

WWF-Malaysia, HUTAN and Danau Girang Field Centre are wholly committed to ensure the survival of Borneo elephants. We will collaborate and assist Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), Sabah Forestry Department, and plantations by sharing intelligence on suspicious activities so poaching entry points can be identified in order to develop more efficient enforcement strategies, such as joint patrols.

To implement these strategies, the Sabah government needs to allocate more funds to hire and train more rangers on the ground as their constant and tactical presence is a deterrent to poachers. As for the plantations, they need to be more vigilant and remain cooperative with the authorities, such as by volunteering their staff as Honorary Wildlife Wardens and mobilising them to do strategic and regular patrols.

Lastly, it is the civic duty of every Sabahan to report wildlife crime to Sabah Wildlife Department. If the public chooses to remain silent, it sends a strong signal to the poachers that Sabahans are supporting the murder of their elephants.

Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma
Executive Director/CEO, WWF-Malaysia

Dr Marc Ancrenaz
Co-founder, HUTAN

Dr Benoit Goossens
Director, Danau Girang Field Centre

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