Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sabah pygmy elephants confirmed poisoned

Handout pic from the Sabah Wildlife Department on Jan 29, 2013, showing Baby Joe, the only pygmy elephant still alive from the herd of 14 found dead at the Gunung Rara Forest, near Tawau, Sabah.

The 14 pygmy elephants which were found dead at a forest reserve near Tawau, Sabah, in January were killed by severe poisoning, Sabah State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Masidi Manjun said yesterday.

Chemical analysis by Australian experts showed that the elephants' remains contained high levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, iron and chromium, Masidi was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India (PTI).

He added that the authorities were still trying to track down the culprits.

"These metals are usually found around mining, smelting or waste disposal operations. However, this does not make sense as there is no such activity in the area," Masidi said.

White powder substance found near the body of one of the dead elephants also contained the same ingredients, said Masidi in his winding-up speech at the State Assembly sitting yesterday when replying to a question from Kapayan assemblyman Dr Edwin Bosi.

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The findings were made in the toxicology test conducted by the Queensland Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Australia, he said, according to The Borneo Post on its website.

“But it is not rational (to find it at Gunung Rara) because no such activities were taking place there, near the FMU 23. This supports our theory that the toxic substances were deliberately placed near the feeding ground of the elephants with the intention to hurt them,” he said.

The PTI report quoted Masidi as saying the Wildlife Department officials sent out specimens of the dead elephants to various research institutions in the peninsula, Thailand and Australia to obtain feedback on how the animals had been killed.

Masidi said the Government had been transparent in handling the matter and was working with various wildlife NGOs for long-term conservation efforts of the elephants.

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