KOTA KINABALU: The remains of three more endangered Borneo pygmy elephants have been found in the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, taking the total death toll to 13.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjunconfirmed the latest discovery of the decomposing bodies of a male and two female elephants in the area where 10 others were found earlier.
There is a possibility that more could be found as wildlife officials believe that all the 13 elephants and a rescued calf were part of a single herd.
They are believed to have consumed some form of natural or pesticide poison while roaming in the Yayasan Sabah forest management unit 23 (FM23) that is locked between Sabah's Maliau Basin and Danum Valley forest reserves.
Masidi said that suspicion was growing that foul play had a role in the deaths.
“No amount of laws and enforcement can be effective if people do not have the sense of responsibility that these animals belong to the people,” he said on Wednesday.
He has ordered his ministry's permanent secretary Datuk Michael Embanto take over as chairman of the special task force set up to investigate the deaths, which have been dubbed a “conservationist's nightmare.”
Meanwhile, the Sabah Wildlife Department is waiting for a chemist's report on the possible causes for the deaths of the elephants, which were found since Dec 29 and Jan 29.