Malaysia: Fears of poaching rise of elephants in Sabah after another smuggling case

MUGUNTAN The Star 3 Aug 17;

KOTA KINABALU: A second case of ivory smuggling detected by Indonesian Customs in Nunukan, Kalimantan, at the Sabah border is fuelling fears among conservationists that the tusk may have been poached from a Bornean pygmy elephant in the state.

A tusk weighing 2.7kg was recovered from an Indonesian worker returning from Tawau to his home province in Indonesia.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said it had received information about the seizure of the tusk but had little leads on the source.

“We have been given some details on the background of the person arrested but we don’t have enough to lead us to the likely seller,” he said when contacted here yesterday.

The tusk, he said, was likely to be from a Bornean pygmy elephant.

On July 24, Indonesian Customs official at the Nunukan port had spotted the tusk in a bag that was being scanned. The worker carrying the bag had just arrived on an-hour passenger boat ride from Sabah’s Tawau district.

An Indonesian Customs official, M. Karyadi, said the worker had claimed that he bought the tusk for RM1,500 in Kota Kinabalu for traditional purposes at his home village in the islands in Nusa Tenggara Timur.

Karyadi said the investigation was focused on the possibility that he could be involved in the smuggling of illegal ivory.

The worker remains under detention for possession of ivory without a permit under the country’s Conservation of Biological and Natural Resources law and faces up to five years in prison and a fine.

Tuuga said they hoped to work with the Customs in Tawau to keep a close eye especially on workers leaving its port for Indonesia.

“It is difficult to pinpoint where he got the tusk from. Many of these workers work in estates in the east coast where our elephants roam. We have a large land area.

“We don’t have enough information to trace the origin,” he said, adding that its enforcement would increase intelligence gathering and called for people to contact it should they have information of such trade.

On Jan 13, Customs officials in Nunukan had seized five ivory tusks from a 37-year-old Indone­sian woman returning from Tawau.

Some conservationists in Sabah believed that the ivory could have come from butchered elephants, including a rare, sabre tooth tusker, in the Segama conservation area last year.

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