‘Sabre’ the Elephant has been killed by Poachers in Sabah
A "saber-toothed" pygmy elephant made headlines worldwide recently. Now he is dead, having been killed by poachers. Photo Credit: Sabah Wildlife Department
Last August a Bornean pygmy elephant made headlines globally thanks to its tusks, which had been growing downwards and backwards, giving the jumbo a sabre-toothed look. Nicknamed “Sabre” by local officials, the adult male elephant helped highlight the wondrous diversity of Sabah’s wildlife.
A few months on, Sabre is dead, having been killed by poachers. Wildlife officials have found the remains of the pachyderm on New Year’s Eve. The gruesome discovery came shortly after they had found the carcass of another male elephant, which too had been slaughtered for his tusks.
“We found the remains of Sabre on New Year’s Eve, with the satellite collar next to the skull,” Benoit Goossens, director of the Danau Girang Field Centre, explained. “In the space of a month, Sabre and another large bull were killed by poachers for ivory,” he added. “Both carcasses were found 1,500m from each other, although the killings did not happen at the same time.”
In October, Sabre was rescued from a plantation near Tawau, fitted with a satellite collar to track his movements, and released into the Kawang Forest Reserve, where he was expected to be safe from harm. Sadly, the pachyderm wasn’t safe. “We were obviously wrong,” Goossens noted. According to satellite data, the elephant was killed on November 21 within the forest reserve by poachers, who took his tusks.
And so it goes: while animal lovers worldwide celebrated Sabre’s unique tusks, poachers set out to kill him for them. This tells you everything you need to know about people who think nothing of murdering endangered animals for filthy lucre. They are heartless and unscrupulous.
“There are no words to express our sadness,” said wildlife veterinarian Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam, a member of Sabah’s Wildife Rescue Unit who helped relocate Sabre last October. “It looks like there is no safe place for elephants in Sabah any more,” he lamented. “The relevant authorities who are responsible for enforcement of illegal wildlife poaching and other illegal activities must work harder and smarter.”
That they certainly must do. With only somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 wild pygmy elephants left in Borneo, the species is on the verge of extinction in the wild as a result of relentless habitat loss and poaching. Needless to say, the slaughter of the two male elephants for their tusks has outraged local conservationists. “We can’t keep losing elephants. This has to stop. And we can’t be reacting only when a wild [animal] is brutally killed,” Andrew Sebastian, a member of the Ecotourism & Conservation Society Malaysia (EcoMy), stressed. “The Sabah state government must take measures.”
What measures to take? For starters, wildlife patrols by qualified rangers must be stepped up. All poachers and wildlife traffickers must, meanwhile, be punished with the full severity of the law. People engaged in poaching and other wildlife crimes face the prospects of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to RM500,000. Throw the book at anyone who is caught killing protected wild animals or trafficking in their parts.