- A total of ten of the creatures have been discovered in the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, Borneo, over the past three weeks
- Conservation officials believe the endangered animals had been poisoned
- Estimated to be fewer than 1,500 Borneo pygmy elephants in existence
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Wildlife rangers believe that the creatures could have eaten toxic substances laid to keep away ‘pests’ from the highly lucrative crop.
The animals live on land in the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve which is very close to palm oil fields.
A total of 14 pygmy elephants are now know to have died. Four adults were discovered yesterday in addition to ten bodies found earlier in the week.
Vets said that all the dead elephants had suffered severe bleeding and gastrointestinal ulcers, suggesting they had been poisoned.
Among the survivors is a three-month-old calf which was pictured pitifully trying to rouse his mother after she dropped down dead.
It is now being cared for at a wildlife park in Sabah where rangers have found it a home with other orphans.
Wildlife workers fear that more elephants could have been poisoned and are lying undiscovered in the remoter parts of Borneo.
Laurentius Ambu, Sabah’s director of wildlife, said: ‘We are very concerned that many more carcasses are going to turn up.
‘Because the elephants travel in herds they are going to be picking up the poisons together so we fear that there are still more dead that are going to be found.
He said that rangers were scouring the island for areas where poison could have been laid.
‘My hunch is that there may be more (carcasses). I don’t think it’s an accident,’ he added, explaining that the area where the dead elephants were found is part of a 100,000-acre (40,469-hectare) piece of ‘commercial forest reserve’ land managed by state agency Sabah Foundation.
He said the area was slated to be used as a tree plantation for sustainable logging. So far, two palm oil plantations and a logging company operate in the area, he said.
Mr Ambu said far too many jungle areas in Sabah were being broken up by agricultural or logging activities, without corridors linking them to allow animals to pass through.
‘This shouldn’t be. The fragmentation of forests has disrupted the elephants’ traditional routes to look for food.
‘It is highly suspected that the poisoning is blatantly done or that it’s a well-planned programme.’
Police are investigating the deaths and officials have declined to say whether there are any suspects.
Meanwhile, conservationists say they are deeply concerned about the effects the palm oil industry is having on the wildlife of Borneo.
A spokesman for the WWF said that the dead elephants were found in areas being converted for plantations, giving fresh urgency to activists’ warnings of rising conflict between man and wildlife as development accelerates.
‘The central forest landscape in Sabah needs to be protected totally from conversion,’ the group said in a statement.
‘Conversions result in fragmentation of the forests, which in turn results in loss of natural habitat for elephant herds, thus forcing them to find alternative food and space, putting humans and wildlife wildlife in direct conflict.’
The first ten known deaths of the pygmy elephants were made public this week, capturing wide attention as only about 1,200 of the elephants exist worldwide.
Authorities released several photographs of the elephant carcasses, including a particularly poignant one of the three-month-old surviving calf trying to wake its dead mother.
Most of the pygmy elephants live in Sabah and grow to about 8 feet (245 centimetres) tall, a foot or two shorter than mainland Asian elephants.
Known for their babyish faces, large ears and long tails, Borneo pygmy elephants were found to be a distinct subspecies only in 2003, after DNA testing.
Sabah is one of the poorest states in Malaysia. Sabah Foundation was granted huge forest concessions, totalling about 14 percent of total land area in Sabah, by the state government to enable it to generate income to fund its aim of improving the lives of poor rural people.
The Sabah Foundation website said it had adopted sound forest management policies to ensure the areas are managed on a sustainable basis.
Pygmy Elephants Found Dead In Borneo
Published on 29 Jan 2013
Pygmy elephant calf desperately tries to wake up dead mother who was one of ten animals found poisoned
A baby pygmy elephant tries in vain to rouse its mother, one of ten of the endangered creatures found dead in a Malaysian forest.
Experts believe the rare, baby-faced animals, whose bodies were found in the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve in Sabah state, Borneo, had been poisoned.
Wildlife officials rescued this three-month-old elephant calf, which was found glued to its dead mother’s side in the jungle.
The seven female and three male elephants, which were all from the same family group, have been found over the past three weeks.
Sabah’s environmental minister Masidi Manjun said the cause of death appeared to be poisoning, but it was not yet clear whether the animals had been deliberately killed.
There are believed to be fewer than 1,500 Borneo pygmy elephants in existence.
While some have been killed for their tusks in the area in recent years, there was no evidence to suggest the elephants had been poached.