By Sean Whyte
As we approach the first anniversary of the mass poisoning of 14 Pygmy elephants in Sabah, now might be a good time to reflect on how this hideous crime has gone unpunished. When the news of the poisoning first broke, we read lots of concern expressed by Minister Masidi Manjun, Dr Sen Nathan, and others.
What we have never subsequently heard and doubt we ever will is, who was responsible for these deaths and why have there been no arrests? Recently in Free Malaysia Today an article queried if more than 14 elephants were in fact poisoned. Maybe 16. There was neither confirmation or denial from Sabah Wildlife Department. Why the silence?
In February 2013 CNN reported: “Poisoning elephants is a very common practice in these parts of the world,” said Barney Long, the World Wildlife Fund’s Asian species expert. “The elephants are usually poisoned with bait such as pineapple, palm oil or bananas. The poison is fast-acting and can kill up to a whole herd.” The purpose of poisoning the elephants: To make the land safe for farming.
Given what Long said, which we know to be correct, how hard can it be to track down and arrest the culprits in the area of Sabah concerned? What industry clears land in that area? Have the premises of the company(s) concerned been searched for evidence of poisoning? How many people were interviewed? Were their bodies and clothes quickly tested for contamination by the poison? Where are the records of the interviews and searches conducted?
I’ve lost count of how many orangutans, rhinos and elephants have ‘disappeared’ from Sabah. We are talking large numbers. Will the Sabah Wildlife Department reveal to us how many people have been arrested and prosecuted in the last 10 years concerning all these missing and supposedly protected species? It’s my impression no one for a moment believes the Sabah Wildlife Department investigated the killing of the 14 elephants a year ago thoroughly or correctly.
This slaughter of innocent, highly endangered elephants, leaves an indelible stain on Sabah and those government officers responsible for protecting its wildlife. These same people seem always to have excuses, but no answers. How long will it before there is another conference in Sabah to ‘talk’ about saving wildlife