An adult male elephant was found dead with gunshot wounds along a road at the Felda Umas Oil Plantation, some 70km from Tawau.
Tawau-based Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) officer Soffian Abu Bakar said they received a call from the plantation manager last Friday at 9am on the elephant carcass, believed to be aged between 18 and 25.
He then called on the public to provide them with information on the elephant shooting, because “a crime has been committed”.
“The team found a small wound on the abdominal area which indicated a probable entry wound for a bullet,” said SWD assistant director Dr Sen Nathan.
He said a bullet was found lodged in the elephant’s left lung.
Sen said it had entered the abdominal area and penetrated the intestines, causing serious internal bleeding and finally hitting the lung.
He added that they believed the elephant had suffered for at least two to four days before succumbing to its injury.
Sen said the slug has been handed over to the police for further examination and identification.
“What we see here is an ongoing malady, not only here in Felda Umas, but also in other parts of Sabah that share its areas with elephant habitats,” said SWD director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu.
He said human-elephant conflicts in Felda Umas had been an ongoing issue with 15 elephants translocated away from the site to date.
The dead elephant, Ambu revealed, was one of the remaining few awaiting translocation.
Similar problems, he explained, were found in the Telupid district where more than 25 elephants had ventured out of the forest habitat and caused damage to fruit trees and small oil palm plantations owned by villagers.
The herd, Ambu said, had also made its way as close as 1km from Telupid town.
“We have already translocated eight elephants and are still in the process of translocating the others.”
Ambu said what was more worrying was that elephants were encroaching areas where the communities had never seen them in the past, thus creating a serious elephant-human conflict.
“One of these areas is in the Pensiangan or Sapulut district where elephants are now quite commonly seen near villages, feeding on fruit trees and destroying other crops as well.”
When asked about how successful the translocation operation activities had been, Ambu said it cost up to RM30,000 per elephant.
But sometimes, just a few weeks after the elephant had been translocated, it ended up going into other human populated areas, causing problems there, he said.