Calf elephant’s drowning makes it 4 deaths in 5 weeks in Sabah
Published on: Friday, November 08, 2019
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KOTA KINABALU: Two dead Borneo pygmy elephants were found last week in Sabah instead of just the one found floating in the Kinabatangan River last Sunday.

A calf elephant, aged between six months and one year, was also found dead inside a mud-filled ditch within an oil palm plantation in neighbouring Lahad Datu district last Friday.

The discovery was made some 100km from where the carcass of the bull elephant was found floating in the Kinabatangan River.

This means there have been four elephant deaths in the past five weeks since the first discovery of a bull elephant found riddled with gunshots in Kalabakan, Tawau, on Sept 23.

But unlike the three other deaths, wildlife authorities do not believe this calf was killed by poachers.

“We do not suspect any foul play,” said Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga in confirming with FMT the discovery of the calf by plantation workers.

Tuuga noted that the calf was earlier spotted with a herd of 14 other elephants when they fell into the ditch.

“The calf may have been pinned down by the larger elephants when they were trying to get out of the pool. It could have drowned as a result,” he said.

The Wildlife Department was silent on this death before this. Tuuga said they were alerted to the death on Friday morning.

He, however, did not explain why the media was not told about the death.

Mud pools or mud pits are often dug up by workers in logging or plantation areas. They are known to be death traps for pygmy elephants, even though these animals are able to swim.

In 2016, seven of nine pygmy elephants were found dead after being stuck inside a mud pit near a timber camp in Rinukut, Tawau, for days.


Elephants are listed under Part 1 of protected animals under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment.

Last Sunday, the bull elephant found floating in the Kinabatangan River was believed to have been killed by poachers. A post-mortem found that the toes of the animal’s front two feet had been cut off. The whole head, with the tusks, was missing.

It was the third reported death of a pygmy elephant in five weeks. In the first incident, occurring on Sept 23 in Kalabakan, Tawau, a bull elephant was found with over 70 bullet holes in its body.

On Oct 20, an elephant was found dead in an oil palm plantation in Beluran. Its tusks had been sawn off.



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