Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sabah's pygmy elephant probe bogged down by red tape

KOTA KINABALU: A probe into the death of 14 Bornean pygmy elephants is being bogged down by international procedures.

Samples taken from the elephants that were believed to have been poisoned were supposed to be sent to Thailand and Australia for analysis but state authorities are awaiting the green light from international bodies, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

“We need to deal with procedures before we can have the samples sent overseas for testing,” said state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Man­­-jun.

Authorities here had decided to send the samples to Thailand’s Mahidol University poison centre and the Queensland Depart­ment of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry in Australia as part of the probe into the cause of deaths.

“I was told that we have the nod to send the samples to Thailand and we are doing this now but we are still waiting for approval to send the samples to Australia,” he said.

The 14 elephants were found dead at the Gunung Rara forest reserve, about 139km from the east coast district of Tawau last month.

A three-week-old male calf is the sole survivor of the herd and is being kept at the Lok Kawi zoo.