Call for in-depth probe into death of elephants


PETALING JAYA: More in-depth investigations are required before any conclusion can be made regarding the death of seven pygmy elephants, according to experts.

Last Saturday, nine pygmy elephants were found stuck in a mud pool near the Berkat Saga Logging Camp in Rinukut, Sabah. Five were already dead and two had to be euthanised.

Sabah Wildlife Department Director Augustine Tuuga said the elephants were believed to have been stuck in the pool for a week before they were discovered.

Investigations conducted and the post-mortem report showed no element of crime was involved in the death of the elephants.

Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, an associate professor at the School of Environmental Science, University of Nottingham Malaysia, told FMT there could be two “most likely” reasons as to why the elephants had gathered at the mud pool.

“One is that they could have been unfamiliar with the territory and could not judge the depth of the pool.

“There is also a social factor, since we know that elephants are empathetic creatures. The others could have fallen in when trying to save their friends.”

He said there could be many reasons as to why the elephants would have journeyed into unfamiliar territory. This may not have necessarily been due to human disturbance.

“Eventually, elephants, when grown, have to split into groups.

“It’s not unusual for elephants to venture into new territory but then again, of course, if their home range had been disturbed by such things as deforestation, then they might have been pushed away someplace else.

“The fact is that only local researchers will be able to provide some kind of meaningful explanation.

“Accidents happen. So I will not think of any foul play, unless there is more information.”

Meanwhile, Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia (EcoMy) CEO Andrew Sebastian said it was puzzling as to how the elephants could have ended up in the pool in the first place.

“You can run a post mortem and say that they drowned, but how they got there and the fact that they were left there for over a week is very suspicious,” he told FMT.

“I hope that they bring in external experts to go in and verify how this happened.”

He expressed frustration over the incident, calling it a “sad day” for Malaysians.

“We ought to be celebrating these animals, not mourning their deaths.

“These are large animals and it takes them very long to die. Just to imagine the pain and suffering they had to endure makes me angry.”

He pointed out how pygmy elephants were among the rarer species of elephants and had brought a lot of fame and prosperity, especially to the people of Borneo.