Ten rare Borneo pygmy elephants were found dead in a Malaysian reserve forest and officials suspect they were poisoned, wildlife department officials said Tuesday.
The carcasses of the 10 Borneo pygmy elephants were found near to each other at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve in Malaysia's Sabah state on the island of Borneo, over a period of three weeks.
According to wildlife officials, all the dead pygmy elephants belonged to the same family group. A postmortem has revealed that they suffered severe haemorrhage and ulcers in their gastrointestinal tracts.
The animals - seven female and three male - were aged between four and twenty.
Officials found four bodies last week and another four two days later, while two highly decomposed bodies were found earlier this month.
In one instance, officials rescued a three-month-old calf who was trying to wake her dead mother desperately.
"It was actually a very sad sight to see all those dead elephants, especially one of the dead females who had a very young calf of about three months old. The calf was trying to wake the dead mother up," Laurentius Ambu, Sabah's wildlife department director said.
Authorities believe poachers were not involved in the incident as the tusks of the pygmy elephants were found intact and there were apparently no gunshots on the body.
Masidi Manjun, Sabah’s environment minister, vowed to take tough action against the culprits.
"If indeed these poor elephants were maliciously poisoned I would personally make sure that the culprits would be brought to justice and pay for their crime," he said in the statement.
Borneo pygmy elephants are an endangered species and their population has declined by over 50 percent in the last 75 years.
The World Wildlife Fund group estimates that a fewer than 1500 Borneo pygmy elephants exist in the world. The pygmy elephants are smaller than other Asian elephants and they inhabit Borneo in Malaysia’s Sabah state.
The animals have a babyish face and big ears. Male pygmy elephants grow less than 2.5 meters in height compared to their other Asian counterparts which grow up to three meters. Borneo pygmy elephants are less aggressive compared to other species.
The existence of these rare species is threatened by the loss of their habitat and feeding grounds. Increased logging and encroachment in the area has escalated conflicts between Borneo pygmy elephants and humans.
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