Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Malaysia considers reward in dead Borneo pygmy elephant case


MALAYSIAN authorities will offer a RM50,000 reward for information on 14 rare Borneo pygmy elephants found dead last month if it is confirmed they were poisoned, officials said Wednesday.

Sabah tourism, culture and environment minister Datuk Masidi Manjun told AFP that authorities hoped the reward would help them get new leads.

"There is a reward of 50,000 ringgit for information leading to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of the alleged culprits if the chemist report confirms that death was due to intentional poisoning," he said.

He added in a text message that the report is due to be completed on Friday, about a fortnight after a group of eight elephants were found dead near an oil palm plantation.

Further bodies were later found decomposing in the Gunung Rara forest reserve, and officials are trying to save a three-month-old calf, poignantly photographed nuzzling its dead mother and now staying in a wildlife park.

Officials believe the pachyderms — an endangered species — may have been poisoned, possibly by substances left out by workers at nearby plantations to deter them from eating the palm fruit.

Poisoning is suspected due to severe ulceration and bleeding in the animals' digestive tracts.

Masidi has vowed to push for severe punishment including a stiff jail sentence for anyone found to have maliciously poisoned the animals.

WWF-Malaysia in a statement blamed the deaths on rampant felling of forests by planters, which had forced elephants to find alternative food and space and put them in conflict with humans.

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