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.