Sabah Wildlife Department officials and veterinarians have begun the process of conducting a postmortem on the body of a male pygmy elephant that was found in the Tawau area of the state, shot and with its tusks removed.
Initial findings have isolated 70 bullet holes on the majestic animal’s body, believed to have been fired at close range, using semi-automatic weapons, before removing his tusks.
His body was discovered semi-submerged in Sungai Udin, with images going viral online. Heavy machinery was required to lift the elephant from the water, bringing it first from the river onto dry land, and later transporting it onto a boat.
Wildlife officials cannot determine if the elephant died quickly, or whether he had prolonged and agonizing suffering before succumbing to the gun shots. One of the bullets went through the elephant’s right temple, fracturing his skull. Such an injury would have made death “instantaneous” according to source, but officials are unable to determine the sequence of shots that were fired.
Sabah’s Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga called the death “cruel,” but has not officially shed light on the postmortem results.
Officials are now looking for four to five poachers, with pygmy elephants being protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. Those found guilty of their murder can be jailed up to five years, and face fines of RM250,000 (US$60,000).