5 elephant deaths so far this year, says Sabah deputy CM

The carcass of a female elephant found in Sukau, Kinabatangan, on Saturday. (Pic coutresy of Sabah Wildlife Department)

KOTA KINABALU: There have been five elephant deaths since the beginning of this year, said Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew.

In the most recent case, an adult female elephant was found dead in Bagahak, Lahad Datu, yesterday. A post-mortem to ascertain the cause of death was conducted on the same day.

Besides that, Liew said a baby elephant was rescued by the state’s Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) after it was found wandering alone in a plantation in Kinabatangan. However, it succumbed to injuries after two weeks of intensive veterinary care.

The other cases involved another adult female, one adult male and a two-year-old young male in the east coast districts of Kinabatangan and Lahad Datu.

“Though most of these deaths point towards suspected poisoning, which could be intentional or unintentional, no conclusive results could be obtained from the toxicology analyses.

“The Sabah Wildlife Department is now working feverishly to send these tissue samples for a more in-depth and broad-spectrum toxicology analysis within Malaysia and abroad to try to find out the source of the toxin,” she said, in a statement.

Liew, who is also state tourism, culture and environment minister, said while this will cost the Sabah government a lot of money, the state “will not leave any stone unturned” in its quest to solve the cause of deaths of the elephants.

Saying that the human-elephant conflict is not confined just to Sabah, she noted that such conflicts are much more severe throughout countries with the Asian elephant.

“Take Sri Lanka for instance. In 2019 alone, there were 361 elephant deaths and more than 100 people were killed in human-elephant conflicts in the same period.

“Sabah saw 150 elephant deaths from 2010 to 2019. There were only four human deaths in this 10-year period.

“It just goes to show that although we are experiencing quite serious instances of elephant deaths as a result of the conflict, the situation in Sabah is still under control,” she said.

Liew said this was due to the cooperation of all parties involved in the conflict as they are equally concerned about the plight of the animals.

She said there is a close working relationship with conservation NGOs and plantation industries in efforts to minimise the human-elephant conflict as much as possible.

She added it was important to hear the advice and input from not only NGOs but also the local communities in solving the conflict in some of the districts in Sabah.

“Let me assure you that the Sabah government takes elephant conservation as one of its top priorities.

“Just yesterday, the state Cabinet tabled and approved the 10-year Bornean Elephant Action Plan (2020-2029), which further enhances the protection and conservation of Bornean elephants in Sabah.

“All concerned citizens are, therefore, responsible for making sure that the deaths of elephants, for whatever reason, is kept to the very minimum level. We are still striving for zero deaths,” Liew said.