Snares set by palm oil workers taking a toll on pygmy elephants of Borneo
October 12, 2008
Warning: this article contains graphic pictures that may be unsuitable for some readers. The images show injuries to animals, specifically a baby elephant, caused by a snare. Continue at your own risk.
Wildlife rangers are finding increasing numbers of Borneo Pygmy elephants injured or killed by snares set by poorly paid oil palm plantation workers, reports Malaysia’s Sabah Wildlife Department.
“We have a bigger issue of elephants getting injured mostly due to man-made snare traps then dying from their injuries,” said Laurentius Ambu, Sabah Wildlife Department Director. “Besides being a cruel and inhumane way to kill wildlife it is also illegal and it leads to injuries and eventual death of not only elephants but also orang-utans, monkeys and other wildlife.”
“As the severity of the wound on this elephant is so serious, this poor baby elephant would very soon succumb to gangrene and die. The sad thing is that even an attempt to rescue it and bring it in for treatment would probably mean amputation of the limb and a life in captivity. It would be all too cruel to have it live on and suffer in captivity, with a handicap like that.”
These photos were taken by Inada Nobuhiro, a Japanese wildlife guide and lecturer.
According to a statement released by the Sabah Wildlife Department, snares are usually set by oil palm plantation workers who are attempting to supplement their income by selling boar and deer meat to restaurants or eating it themselves. Elephants stumble into the traps and are snared. The resulting injury can lead to infection and even death. Young elephants are most at risk.
Dr. Senthilvel Nathan, Chief Field Veterinarian for the Sabah Wildlife Department, says that injured elephants can be difficult to treat due to their tight social structure.
“Elephants have a very complex social structure and are very protective and caring for their young. It would be a difficult task requiring a number of elephants to be sedated at once so that we can separate it from the group,” he said. “And we know elephants are highly intelligent and once they recognize that humans have taken one of their young this could develop into a more serious problem as they might become more aggressive towards humans.”
Human-wildlife conflict is a rising problem in Sabah — a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo — where large tracts of habitat have been destroyed for industrial oil palm plantations. As habitat is diminished, animals increasingly tread in agricultural areas in search of food or water. For migratory species like elephants, the problem is compounded since their routes often take them through ares that are now oil palm plantations.
“We have to address problems our elephants are facing now before it is too late and we find ourselves left with only a few hard choices,” said Laurentius. “Palm oil companies will also be liable if we find their workers are involved in such illegal activities.”
The Sabah Wildlife Department has been working on implementing an elephant management plan for Sabah in collaboration with HUTAN, WWF-Malaysia, and other NGOs.
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