KOTA KINABALU: Members of the public have been asked not to jump to conclusion on the cause of death of the 14 pygmy elephants in Lahad Datu.
Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun told press members after addressing his ministry’s monthly staff gathering yesterday that it was dangerous for them to come up with an assumption at this time unless there was strong evidence to support their argument.
“We cannot assume because the first test conducted failed to show how the elephants had died,” he said.
He added that a lot of people had mentioned the possibility that the elephants were killed by oil palm plantations.
“But the elephants died 42 kilometers from the nearest plantation. That is very far away. So anything could have caused their deaths,” he said.
Masidi also said it was wrong to point fingers at village folk as the culprits.
When asked if it was possible that the elephants could have been poisoned by pesticides gotten from Indonesia,, Masidi replied that if pesticides were used in the killing of the elephants, it would have been apparent in the first test carried out.
“It would have been found in the lab test … if it was pesticide, other animals would have been found dead near the locations too. But there were none. Moreover, half of the elephants from the same herd are still alive. If it is true that they had grazed at the same areas, all of them would have been dead,” he explained.
Masidi added that he did not think the pesticide was dumped into the river because otherwise they would have found dead fishes too.
Meanwhile, the samples from the dead elephants have not been sent to laboratories in Australia and Thailand as the issue is governed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
“We have to wait for their approval before we can send the samples to Australia and to Thailand. CITES is responsible on such issues. Moreover, the pygmy elephants are classified under Class 1 of CITES, so we need their approval before we can ship the samples outside of Sabah. We will be getting the approval to send the samples over to Thailand but the approval to send the samples to Australia is still pending,” he said.
Fortunately, the samples, which were refrigerated, can last for a long time, even years.
He stressed that they were keen on resolving the issue as soon as possible as it has garnered world attention.
Masidi then mentioned that there was still no tip-off from the public despite the RM100,000 reward that was now being offered for the capture and conviction of the perpetrator that had caused the elephants’ death.
“Even the police, who have tried their best, have yet to find any lead on what killed the elephant. It is a mystery, so we need to tackle the issue with caution. We don’t want to accuse people unnecessarily.
“Give them time. We hope there will be concrete evidence on the cause of death. I must caution however than not all scientific knowledge can solve problems.”