KOTA KINABALU: A satellite-collared Borneo pygmy elephant was found dead suspected due to poisoning in the Kinabatangan plantation, yesterday.
Plantation workers discovered the female pachyderm carcass with several lizards feeding on it near a drain at 5.50am, before the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) was alerted.
It is learnt that the mammal was part of the Danau Girang Field Centre's (DGFC) elephant research and was nicknamed "Girang".
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew said the elephant could have been killed by poison or could have eaten poison from fertilizer, causing internal organ failure.
"There's a likelihood that somebody has poisoned it because based on post-mortem, its stomach shows good food.
"We are sad that this has happened. If this is a case of wildlife murder, then whoever is killing these elephants is actually challenging us and the law. We do not tolerate this anymore and we will get them.
"We need to review our laws and step up punishment terms to make sure this does not happen again," said the state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister.
She said her Ministry would work with the police to assist in catching wildlife offenders, while urging the public to play their role in disseminating information with regards to illegal wildlife activities.
Liew also stressed they would ensure more allocation be given to hire and train rangers as well as to set up more stations to monitor wildlife.
"I am going to conduct an emergency meeting with SWD and have a brainstorming. I want them to advise me what else can be done in order to take drastic action to stop or minimise (wildlife killing)," she said.
DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens, when contacted, said they collared Girang two years ago in the vicinity of the centre as part of its research and monitoring work on the elephants of the Kinabatangan.
He noted they had conducted a check on her just recently, adding the elephant died on Nov 14.
"On Nov 13, she was still moving normally and walked about 2 km that day. She is part of a larger herd in which we have another two collared females.
"They had spent the last three to four months in oil palm plantations on the south and north banks of the Kinabatangan," he said.
Goossens said the centre would continue with its research in hopes it will shed light on what is happening in plantations and how so many elephants are dying in plantations.
According to post-mortem findings shared by SWD director Augustine Tuuga, the mammal's internal organs namely heart, lungs, liver, spleen, and kidneys were severely congested.
Although the stomach contained normal food content such as oil palm frond and sweet potato, the cause of death is suspected to be acute poisoning.