......A Ranger from the Wildlife Rescue Unit putting a Satellite Collar on of
the Borean Pygmy elephants at Gunung Rara Forest Reserve.
KOTA KINABALU : The
investigation into the dead Bornean Pygmy elephants (Elephas maximus
borneensis) found in the central forests of Sabah in Gunung Rara early this
year is still on-going with latest results coming from Thailand.
analysis found what is referred to as ‘caustic intoxicant’. In laypersons
terms, we would say it is unidentified toxic poisoning,” stated the Director of
the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), Datuk Dr. Laurentius Ambu at a Press
Conference held at their headquarters in Kota Kinabalu yesterday.
However, according to the
Director it was still not known what type of toxin was responsible for the
lesions, if it was administered deliberately or accidently consumed by the
testing carried out in Malaysia and Thailand has yet to provide confirmation on
the type of toxins the elephants consumed in part due to high rate of
“We sent samples to various
institutions in Malaysia and to Mahidol University and Ramathibodi Poisons
Centre and the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Science both in
Thailand as well as to the Queensland Biosecuity Sciences Laboratory in
Australia in our efforts to throw a wide net and ensure that all possibilities
were tested for,” said SWD Veterinarian Dr. Roza Sipangkui.
The laboratory in Australia
is still processing the samples and the results will be released by the SWD
once they receive them, added Dr. Sipangkui.
“We are also awaiting
results for Elephant Endotiliotropic Herpes Virus testing. So far this virus
has never been detected in Malaysia but the Veterinary Research Institute in
Ipoh is conducting these analyses to rule out this possibility, as we are
detemined to check every avenue,” said SWD Assistant Director Dr. Sen Nathan.
Numerous tests investigating
microbiology, parasitological, toxicology, bacteriological, virological and
histopathological aspects have been done since January.
However obtaining the
necessary authorisations to export samples of species protected under
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
(CITES) and strict import rules enforced by Government’s of Thailand and
Australia for biological substances delayed the sending of the samples for a
month.The samples were finally sent
overseas on the 6th of March to Thailand and the 13th of March to Australia
with the assistance and facilitation of SWD partner EcoHealth Alliance.
“This investigation is a top
priority for the SWD and the State Government, unfortunately sometimes the
process seems slow but we are being thorough and open with our findings
throughout,” said Dr. Sen.
Thousands of posters
advertising the reward of RM120,000 for information have also been distributed
throughout plantations in the Gunung Rara area as well as villagers and the
close by towns of Tawau and Semporna.
“We have been working
closely with the Police every step of the way, as they are leading this
criminal investigation,” added Dr. Sen.
is affectionately known as Joe seen here with his primary carer, WRU staff,
The SWD also admitted that
they need more resources to monitor areas of wildlife conflict and acknowledged
that better coordination between the different government agencies such as the
Sabah Forestry Department and Sabah Foundation is essential, according to the
“Frequent and large scale
patrolling is critical to avoid such conflict from happening again.However, given the vast area that requires
patrolling, it is a massive task for the SWD,” according to WWF-Malaysia Executive
Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius S K Sharma.
Dionysius also stressed that
more resources, including manpower, hardware and finances, should be allocated
for the Department.
Organisations (NGOs), such as WWF-Malaysia, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC),
HUTAN - Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme, EcoHealth Alliance,
Borneo Conservation Trust, Borneo Rhino Alliance and others provide a vital
role in filling in the gaps for us in the field,” acknowledged Dr. Laurentius.
Citing the 2012 to 2016 State
Action Plan for the Bornean Pygmy elephants, Dr. Marc Ancrenaz, Scientific
Director of HUTAN - KOCP shared that the solutions for the issues faced by the
elephants have been addressed within this document, which was done after much
consultation between various groups.
“We have practical and
workable solutions within the State Action Plan, what we do not have is an
active collaboration between the various Government agencies, various NGOs and
private companies,” stated Ancrenaz wildlife veterinarian with 15 years of
experience with human wildlife conflict in Sabah.
“All conversion approvals
need to be reviewed by the SFD and assessed not purely from commercial but the
endangered species and landscape ecology perspectives”, added Dionysius.
Currently, the SWD is
working together with DGFC and WWF-Malaysia to satellite -collar about 20 to 30
elephants in order to identify the best areas for the establishment and
preservation as Wildlife Corridors within the changing landscape and Central
Sabah Managed Elephant Range in general but specifically in the Gunung Rara
“Moreover, in collaboration
with WWF-Malaysia, we plan to fit satellite collars on 20 to 30 elephants from
several herds in central Sabah. We will then monitor their movements and
ranging patterns in order to identify the best areas for conservation and
propose the establishment of elephant corridors,” DGFC, Director Dr Benoit
This program began in middle
of last month with SWD’s Wildlife Rescue Unit satellite collaring an adult
female from the herd, in hopes of identify the movements of the herd within the
changing landscape in Gunung Rara/Kalabakan region, and to understand what
could have happened to the 14 elephants that died last January.
Meanwhile, baby Kejora the three
month old elephant calf whose mother was one of the 14 dead elephants has
settled down and is doing well at the at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park where is being
hand raised by the Wildlife Rescue Unit Rangers.