A task force on jumbo deaths; help of Teresa sought

Kota Kinabalu: The State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry is setting up a special task force to further look into reducing unnecessary pygmy elephant deaths.

Its Minister Christina Liew said the Permanent Secretary Datu Rosmadi Datu Sulai would head the team. “The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) under the Ministry has done everything within its capacity to resolve the human-elephant conflict.

“We have offered rewards of up to RM120,000 to plantation workers who can provide substantive information to the department on the perpetrators behind the elephant deaths. But there are no takers until today.

“I am very sure the workers know who killed the animals. I have instructed the ‘big boys’ (oil-palm plantation owners) to remove all wildlife traps within their plantation areas.

“I have also made it clear that, if necessary, we will invoke the Section of Strict Liability under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997,” she said.

She hoped all plantation owners would cooperate with the State Government in putting a stop to the elephant deaths.

Liew, who is a Deputy Chief Minister, stressed she was not accusing anybody of killing the elephants. “If an elephant dies on someone’s land, the onus is still on the landowner to inform the Sabah Wildlife Department to provide an explanation.”

Quoting Section 39 (1) of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, she said an owner of land shall take such steps as shall be reasonable to protect his land, crops and other property from entry and damage by protected animals.

“Put up fencing to protect your land or plantation. It is your duty to do so. Do not kill the elephants which may be roaming around or destroying the fruit crops. But without undue delay, please inform the nearest Wildlife Officer of their presence in the vicinity of your land as they are likely to endanger life or property.

“Or, please inform the Officer of any death, personal injury or damage to your property caused by the protected animal,” she advised.

Liew was responding to Federal Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok’s statement on the elephant deaths in the Chinese media on Friday.

Thanking her for her concern she said it would be better if Teresa could get the landowners and plantation owners to cooperate with the State Government.

“Perhaps the Minister of Primary Industries could advise the owners to remove all the traps on their land. Do not set up any more such traps,” she said.

Liew said her Ministry would do its best, either internally to restructure or revamp the Sabah Wildlife Department, or in accordance with the need to facilitate ongoing investigations.

“Wildlife conservation is a State matter, and we are taking up the matter ourselves. Rest assured, we are setting up a special task force to, among others, determine the actual cause of the elephant deaths.” She said the department has conducted a post-mortem for each death.

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