KOTA KINABALU: The Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry will meet up with Sabah wildlife authorities to find out the reason for scores of elephant deaths in and around oil palm estates in the state.
Its minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin said she was taken aback to learn that many Bornean pygmy elephants have met their deaths in plantation areas on Sabah’s east coast.
The most recent one was a rescued female elephant calf, estimated to be around two years old, that succumbed to its injuries on Tuesday (June 21).
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This was after veterinarians amputated its foot which was nearly severed by a trap in an oil palm estate in the Tungku area of Lahad Datu district.
“I just heard about this elephant calf dying from its injuries,” Zuraida told reporters after attending the Malaysian Cocoa Industry Awards ceremony here on Wednesday (June 22) night.
“As wildlife matters are being managed by the state government through the Sabah Wildlife Department, I think we will need to engage them because I (was) not aware of the many deaths.
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“We need to find out (the cause of the deaths) and (why) they are happening at oil palm plantations.
“We need to see how we can overcome this,” she said, adding that she would also consider using allocations from the ministry’s green fund to aid in the animals’ conservation.
She had been asked about her ministry’s action plan to resolve the alarming rate of deaths involving the endangered Asian elephant sub-species in plantations in Sabah.
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The death of the elephant calf on Tuesday was just one in a string of deaths involving the totally protected pygmy elephants in Sabah over the past decade or so.
The gentle creatures faced threats from poaching and human-animal conflict and many had died of unknown causes.
Besides being ensnared in traps, pygmy elephants have also been found poisoned and shot.
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According to the Bornean Elephant Action Plan for Sabah 2020-2029 by the Wildlife Department, experts estimate that there are only about 1,000-1,500 of the animals in the whole state, including the Central Sabah elephant range.