Friday, 21 June 2013


DEAD..... Joe tugging at its dead mother in this heart-wrenching file photo released by the Sabah Wildlife Department then.

KOTA KINABALU: Finally, the truth is out on the herd of Borneo Pygmy elephants that were found massacred at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve near Kalabakan in Tawau, late 2012 and early this year.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said high levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, iron and chromium were found in the 14 elephants killed in the forest reserve.

When winding up the debate on the government’s policy speech at the Sabah State Assembly today, Masidi said the authorities were still trying to track down the culprits behind the killing of the elephants.

He said chemical analysis by Australian experts showed high levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, iron and chromium found in the remains of the elephants.

“These metals are usually found around mining, smelters or waste disposal operations. However, it does not make sense as there are no such activities in the area,” Masidi said.

He said specimen samples from the insides of the dead elephants were sent to research institutions, including in Thailand and Australia to obtain as much feedback on how the animals were killed.

Masidi said the government had been transparent in handling the matter and was working with wildlife groups for the long-term conservation of the elephants.

Among the measures is the implementation of the Elephant Species Action Plan as well as the setting up of the Elephant Rescue Centre at the Lower Kinabatangan.

When news of the massacre first broke out, officials claimed the animals may have been poisoned, possibly by substances left out by workers at nearby oil palm plantations to deter the animals from eating their palm fruit.

There was only one survivor – the three-month-old orphaned calf, now almost nine months.  “Joe”.

is being kept in quarantine at the Lok Kawi wildlife park and the last Bormeo insider report a week ago, indicated it was getting attached to its care-keepers.

WWF-Malaysia in a statement then blamed the deaths on rampant felling of forests by planters, which had forced elephants to find alternative food and space and put them in conflict with humans.

The group says only about 1,200 Borneo pygmy elephants, which are smaller and have more rounded features than full-sized Asian elephants, are estimated to be left in the wild.


  1. The Bornean Pygmy Elephant - The males rarely exceed 2.5m in height while a large female measures around 2m. Today they are only found in the North East of Borneo.

  2. The Bornean Pygmy Elephant has other peculiar features when compared to other elephant species - they have long tails and straight tusks (only possessed by males). It is assumed that these features, including their small size, are adaptions to a dense forest environment. Perhaps the most peculiar feature of the Bornean Elephant is its tameness. The elephants show a high level of tolerance to humans being in close quarters - as can be seen when they are watched on the bays of the Lower Kinabatangan River by tourists in boats.

  3. The Bornean Elephant has only recently been established as a distinct lineage, they were previously assumed to be artificial extensions of either the Asian Elephant or the Sumatra subspecies. As a result of this they are now recognised as very important from a conservation perspective. Current estimates suggest the total number of elephants in existence is 1,600. These are located in a small area in Borneo stretching from Sebuku Sembakung in north-east Kalimantan through to Maliau, Danum, Kinabatangan and Tabin on the eastern side of Sabah.

  4. The largest single population of Bornean Elephants (150 - 200 elephants) can be found in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. This large herd size is a reflection of the shrinking options for the elephants to roam the land. The Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of 64,250 acres. However, plantations surround large parts of the Sanctuary and these are expanding. This creates increased conflict between the elephants and the people of the area.