The elephant carcass that was found floating in the Kinabatangan river was likely killed by experienced poachers due to the clean cut removal of its tusks and left hind leg.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said that the 15 to 20 year-old bull elephant was believed to have died or been killed three days earlier before being dumped in the river where it was eventually spotted by a group of tourists on Monday.
“Initial inspection found that both tusks with evidence that they were cleanly cut off. The left hind limb was also missing with clean cut signs with a sharp object. Part of the skin of the left side of the body was removed with a sharp object,” he said.
Tuuga said that a post mortem done on the pachyderm did not find any evidence of gunshot on the body which led to beliefs that it may have been caught in a snare trap that eventually caused it to die of exhaustion.
The body of elephant was first reported by a tourist guide who was with a group of four foreign tourists on a river cruise near the tributary of Sg. Koyah at around 11am on Monday.
The carcass was then brought to land where a post mortem was conducted by the department’s veterinary officer.
“Investigation is now focused on finding the possible area where the elephant died or been killed upstream the Kinabatangan river where the carcass was thrown into,” he said.
However, this poses some difficulty given the length of the river.
The death of this elephant comes after the discovery of a young male elephant with its small tusks intact in another district some 200km away in Dumpas, Tawau where the animal was found on September 10.
There were no gunshot wounds nor visible signs of injury and authorities have taken samples of its vital organs to determine its cause of death.
There have been about six reported pachyderm deaths in Sabah this year, including that of a rare, inverted-tusk elephant early in the year.
Last month,a female elephant died of multiple gunshot wounds near a forest reserve.
Earlier, WWF-Malaysia called for more trained rangers to be stationed on the ground to help protect Sabah’s endangered wildlife from poachers.
They said it was a concern how often these cases were emerging and strategies needed to be put in place to ensure the survival of Sabah’s iconic wildlife.
“To implement these strategies, the Sabah government needs to allocate more funds to hire and train more rangers on the ground as their constant and tactical presence is a deterrent to poachers,” it said.