KINABATANGAN: As a Bornean pygmy elephant struggled for its life after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds in an oil palm plantation near the Malua Forest Reserve here, concerned estate workers could only watch helplessly.

The workers had spotted the adult female elephant lying on the ground at about 7am on Aug 4, clinging on to life.

It died of its wounds soon after.

What made the incident all the more upsetting was that the pygmy elephant had a calf, which could be heard wailing for its mother in the distance, as it hid from the estate workers.

The calf eventually disappeared.

The incident was captured by a smartphone’s camera, and a one-minute-and-seven-second video clip was uploaded to the Danau Girang Field Centre’s Facebook page today.

In the footage, workers are heard expressing their sadness and concern over the majestic mammal’s condition, and voice their disgust over the crime perpetrated upon it.

“Teruk betul ini orang ni… Dia tembak ini, mungkin (What a horrible person (the culprit is)… He probably shot (the elephant)),” say the workers.

Some of the onlookers also mention the baby elephant they spot off-camera, and the faint cries of a juvenile could be heard in the distance.

A man is heard asking: “Mana anaknya? (Where is the calf?)”; and a woman responds: “Jalan sudah dia, ndak mau dikacau mungkin. Kesian (It went away, probably it doesn’t want to be disturbed (by humans). What a pity.)”

Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) director Augustine Tuuga told the New Straits Times that a team of investigating officers and veterinarians was sent to the site immediately after being alerted to the incident.

“A forestry officer stationed at the Malua forest reserve informed the department at 9am yesterday. He said the elephant was alive when the workers found it at 7am, but it eventually died.

“When the team arrived, there was only one elephant and they conducted a post-mortem. It was unknown when the elephant was shot. At the moment, I am still waiting for the report,” Augustine said.

Meanwhile, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said he has instructed the SWD to conduct a thorough investigation to identify the culprit and bring them to court.

“An iconic elephant has been killed for a reason we do not know. It is sad because it is as though our people have yet to understand our need to conserve the pygmy elephant in Sabah.

“We need to look at the elephant as a resource that helps Sabah people move forward in tourism,” he said.

Masidi also advised those who come across elephants to contact the SWD directly, especially if they need assistance drive them away from their land.

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The Bornean pygmy elephant was shot dead near Malua Forest Reserve. Courtesy pic.