The male Bornean Pygmy elephant died while undergoing treatment. Pic courtesy of Sabah Wildlife Department.

KOTA KINABALU: A male Bornean Pygmy elephant died while undergoing treatment at the Borneo Wildlife Sanctuary in Kinabatangan, two days ago.

The elephant, aged between six and seven, was found dead in the morning by veterinary officers of the Sabah Wildlife Department.

Department director Augustine Tuuga, in a statement, said a post-mortem examination was conducted on the same day to establish the cause of death.

"During the examination, a bullet slug was found lodged in its injured front left leg.

"There were also sign of gunshots on the body but they did not penetrate or cause any internal organ injury.

A bullet slug was found lodged in the elephant’s front leg. Pic courtesy of Sabah Wildlife Department.

"The cause of death is believed to be due to dehydration as the elephant was unable to drink due to an injury on its tongue," he said.

The department's rescue unit had on Nov 24 captured the elephant, which is listed as a totally protected species, in Desa Plantation, Ladang Pertama for relocation and treatment.

It showed sign of injury on its left front leg and was aggressive towards estate workers and villagers.

Its appearance at Desa Plantation was first reported on Nov 5.

Tuuga said wildlife personnel were sent to manage the situation because the elephant was reportedly charging estate workers who came across its path.

The same elephant was also reported to have caused panic among nearby villages and estates in Telupid for its aggressive behaviour.

"After tracking the elephant for sometime, wildlife personnel finally encountered the elephant at Desa Plantation Nov 24 and successfully captured it.

"The elephant was then taken to the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary for treatment.

"While undergoing medical examination and treatment, its tongue was found to have a serious wound which was believed to have been caused by a gunshot.

"The wound on the tongue left the elephant unable to eat or drink," explained Tuuga.

While the department fully understood the problem faced by residents who encounter the elephant, Tuuga called on people to alert the authorities.

"We will investigate the case further as it involves the death of a totally-protected species," he said.

This is the second incident involving the death of Bornean pygmy elephants this week.

On Tuesday, a bull elephant was found dead with three gunshot wounds, within the Cenderamata Plantation Estate in Tawau. Its tusks were intact.

Last month, another male elephant with its tusks intact was also shot dead within the same plantation.