Malaysia: Poachers running rampant in Pahang's forests to kill elephants just for their tusks

Amin Ridzuan Ishak and T.N Alagesh New Straits Times 31 Aug 18;

KUANTAN: Lying on the ground is the carcass of an adult elephant with its head badly mutilated and bearing gunshot wounds while its tusks were hacked-off by poachers.

That is the stunning discovery made by Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) rangers near a forest reserve here late last year raising concerns about poaching syndicates making inroads into the state to gun-down the mammals for their tusks.

Fetching USD2,000 (RM8,100) a kilogram abroad, the ivory trade is widely considered as the most lucrative business making the elephants a prime target for poachers.

Forest clearing activities have exposed Pahang with an estimated population of between 300 and 400 Asian elephants to be among the target for the well-organised syndicates who are believed to have established links with a bigger poaching racket operating in neighbouring countries and around the region.

Among the hotspots identified as a favourite among elephant poachers here is the Endau Rompin National Park, Lesung reserve forest, Selancar, Cenderawasih, Bukit Ibam, Chemomoi, Kemasul, Jelai reserve forest, Kenong, Kechau, Som, Tekai, Bekelah, Ulu Lepar, Sungai Lembing and Bukit Sagu.

State Perhilitan director Ahmad Azhar Mohamed said the death of the adult male elephant last year was an eye-opener as the syndicates have began targeting the endangered pachyderm in the state which is covered with dense tropical forest.

He said investigations revealed, poachers armed with a gun will kill the elephant before using a chain saw to brutally cut off the tusks and leave the carcass to rot.

Ahmad Azhar said forest clearing activities has forced the mammals to find new areas as sources of food especially near settlements, which expose them to human-elephant conflict and a target for poachers.

“It makes it easier for poachers especially when the forest has access including logging trails...they might leave their vehicles near the forest perimeter and use a motorcycle to reach far into the jungle as they only bring along a gun and saw.

“Killing an elephant often happens by chance as the poachers might study the animals behavior and surrounding areas before striking.The target might be a lone adult elephant which may have strayed out of forests, its group or ventured a little too far in search of food,” he told NSTP.

He said the department also learnt that the poachers have hired “tonto” to keep a watch for the presence of Perhilitan enforcement officers and also provide details if they spotted elephants roaming in their settlements.

Meanwhile Ahmad Azhar said the poaching syndicates might have a wide network around the country including abroad and they are connected to the recent arrest in several other locations over the past few years.

“We are conducting investigations and it could be a matter of time before we track down the culprits. In 2017, a gang were arrested in Kelantan before another syndicate was caught in Perak early this year.

“They are certainly notorious and heavily armed prepared to brutally kill the animals just for the tusks. We have not noticed any other organs missing from the carcass found in Pahang,” he said.

He said the poachers mainly target elephants but are prepared to kill other endangered animals that comes their way as their aim is to only earn lucrative returns from selling the wildlife.

The tusks, which can fetch thousands of dollars overseas, could fetch between RM500 and RM2,000 a kilogramme on the black market locally.

Those charged under Section 68 of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) for hunting or killing protected wildlife can be fined RM100,000 or jailed up to three years.

Rise in local elephant poaching rings alarm bells nationwide
AMIN RIDZUAN ISHAK, TN Alagesh New Straits Times 31 Aug 18;

KUANTAN: When it was reported that Malaysia has emerged as a major transit point for African ivory, many were shocked.

But the recent killings of elephants in the country have taken many by surprise.

A former Perhilitan ranger said that elephant poaching in Malaysia was almost unheard of in the past, but the significant price for Asian elephant ivory tusks has prompted some to engage in the illicit and immoral activity.

He said that although reported cases of poaching are rare, it remains unknown how syndicates operate and the precise locations of their activities in Peninsular and East Malaysia.

“(These people) are certainly not amateurs. They know their job and (who to sell the tusks to). It is not every week that you can find an elephant with tusks and kill it easily.... it only happens by chance.

“In the past, elephants were butchered in certain African countries and the tusks were smuggled into Asia, where they were turned into carved ornamental ivories.

“Malaysia has no domestic industry for ivory products, so the tusks (of Malaysian elephants) are sent abroad,” he said.

“Malaysia has no domestic industry for ivory products, so the tusks (of Malaysian elephants) are sent abroad.” Pix courtesy of Perhilitan
Meanwhile, state Perhilitan director Ahmad Azhar Mohamed urged the public to play a more significant role in helping to combat elephant poaching by providing tip-offs to Perhilitan.

“People must realise that when an elephant leaves a forest, it means that the mammal is facing a conflict, and poachers would often target the elephant. Do not wait until the elephant reaches a village to inform us.

“Please immediately alert us in case you spot elephants near plantations, as we will send our rangers to do the necessary. The Orang Asli community and various non-governmental organisations are also cooperating with us to ensure the elephants always remain in their habitat,” he said.

About elephants:

• All African elephants, both male and female, have tusks, whereas only some Asian males have tusks.
• Asian elephant tusks are named “gading jantung” and “gading rotan.”
• Gading jantung is solid and measures about 1m long, while gading rotan is hollow, measuring some 1.5m long
• Asian elephant tusks weigh between 10 and 15kg