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  • 31 January 2013, 10:34

Pygmy Elephant Deaths: More Protection Needed

More than a dozen rare elephants have died from suspected poisoning in Malaysia, leading to calls for better protection for wildlife in the country's forests.

The WWF conservation group said 14 Borneo pygmy elephants have been found this month in areas where woodland was being turned into plantations.

It called for patrols to be stepped up to prevent more of the animals, which are endangered and thought to number fewer than 1,200, being killed.

Masidi Manjun, Malaysia's environmental minister, said: "The death of these majestic and severely endangered Bornean elephants is a great loss to the state.

"If indeed these poor elephants were maliciously poisoned, I would personally make sure that the culprits would be brought to justice and pay for their crime."

Post-mortem examinations on the elephants from the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve in Malaysia's Sabah state showed they suffered severe haemorrhages and ulcers in their gastrointestinal tracts.

There was no sign the animals had been killed by poachers for their tusks.

Authorities released several photographs of the carcasses, including one of a three-month-old calf apparently trying to wake its dead mother.

Dr Dionysius Sharma, executive director of WWF-Malaysia, said: "Frequent and large scale patrolling is critical to avoid such conflict from happening again.

"However, given the vast area that requires patrolling, it is a massive task for the Sabah Wildlife Department.

"More resources, including manpower, hardware and finances, should be allocated for the department."

Pygmy elephants live mainly in Sabah and grow to be about eight feet tall - a foot or two shorter than mainland Asian elephants.

They are distinctive because of their 'baby' faces and oversized ears, as well as their plump bellies and long tails.

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