KINABATANGAN: His discovery five months ago caused a sensation. His rediscovery yesterday has caused heartache.
While rescuing and relocating a small herd of Bornean pygmy elephants – a highly endangered species – out of a palm oil plantation in early Aug, the Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) came upon a male pachyderm with bizarre-looking, downward-pointing tusks.
It resembled the now-extinct sabre-toothed tiger, something rarely, if ever, encountered – and images of the mini-elephant went viral on social media.
It was lovingly named “Sabre” by the team, which fixed a satellite collar on it to monitor its movements and wellbeing, before releasing it into the Kawag Forest Reserve near Danum Valley.
On Nov 20, the signal from Sabre’s collar showed that he had become stationary, indicating that he may have been in trouble.
Yesterday, the worst fears of the WRU, as well as the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), were realised.
Sabre was discovered dead, along with a jumbo elephant, near the Segama river here – apparently killed by ivory poachers for their tusks.
Sabre’s remains were nothing but bones, as he is believed to have been killed around Nov 20, but the carcass of the jumbo elephant, found 1,500 kilometres up the river, was fresh.
The jumbo elephant had been horribly mutilated, as its entire face had been carved out, as a way of extracting its tusks.
In a Facebook posting on the DGFC site, director Dr Benoit Goosens said they were devastated by the killing.
"There are no words to express our sadness and anger. We hope that the departments in charge will do everything (they can) to catch the culprit(s) and that (the crime) will not go unpunished.
“Sabah, wake up, we are losing our megafauna. The rhino is gone, the banteng is going, the elephant will be next! Let’s not lose our jewels. The next generation will not forgive us!" he appealed.