Friday, 2 January 2009

(Palm Oil victim) Snared calf doomed to painful, lingering death

Note: To view the missing picture please click on the link below this article.

New Straits Times, Malaysia


Snared calf doomed to painful, lingering death

By : Julia Chan

The injured elephant calf with its mother on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. — Picture courtesy of Inada Nobuhiro

The injured elephant calf with its mother on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. — Picture courtesy of Inada Nobuhiro

KOTA KINABALU: Elephant deaths or injuries in the wild are on the rise, alarming Sabah Wildlife Department officials.

Department director Laurentius Ambu said a young elephant was found dead from unknown causes last September.

Many more were found injured by snares and they eventually died of their injuries.

Snares of rope and wire mesh are usually set by oil palm plantation workers to trap wild boar and deer for their own consumption or to sell to restaurants.

However, wildlife such as elephant calves may step into these traps.

While they do not get trapped, the rope or wire mesh is left tied tight around a leg, where it cuts into the skin, leading to infection and eventual death as a result of blood poisoning.

"Snares are a cruel and inhumane way of trapping wildlife. Setting such snares is illegal.

"It leads to injuries and the eventual death of the animal caught, not just wild boar and deer, but also elephants, orang utans, monkeys and other wildlife," said Ambu.

"We have received pictures from a frequent visitor to Kinabatangan, Japanese wildlife guide and lecturer Inada Nobuhiro, about a young elephant. It can only walk on three legs because the fourth is badly injured.

"He said that even with 25 years of working closely with wildlife he still got emotional when he saw the pain the elephant calf was in from the gaping wound on the leg."

It was spotted on the banks of the Kinabatangan River close to the village of Bilit and the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

Nobuhiro reported that the calf was spraying water on the wound, which likely meant it was trying to bring down inflammation.

The department's chief field veterinarian, Dr Sen Nathan, said rescuing the elephant calf would be a complicated task because it would mean separating it from its mother and group.

"Elephants care for their young and are very protective of them. The task would require a number of elephants to be sedated at the same time so that we can separate the calf from the group.

"Elephants are highly intelligent, and once they recognise that humans have taken one of their young this could develop into a serious problem as they might become more aggressive towards humans," said Dr Sen.

"The wound is so severe, this poor baby elephant will likely succumb to gangrene soon and die.

"The sad thing is that even if an attempt to rescue it is successful and it is brought in for treatment, it would probably mean amputation of the limb and a life in captivity.

"It would be all the more cruel to have it live on and suffer in captivity with a handicap like that."

The department has been working on implementing a management plan for Sabah's elephants. It is based on resolutions that were formulated by various stakeholders as well as elephant experts in May last year at the Bornean Elephant Workshop.

"We have to address the problems that our elephants are facing now, before it is too late," said Ambu.

"Oil palm companies will be liable if we find their workers are involved in this illegal activity.

"We have to do our best to ensure that other wildlife do not suffer the same fate as this elephant calf."