KOTA KINABALU, Aug 27, 2015:
The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) today denied allegations that their rescuers had abused a wild elephant during one of their translocation operations.
Giving an assurance to netizens who posted a few photos of the alleged abuse of an elephant on Facebook, SWD director William Baya stressed that their Wildlife Rescue personnel were in no way abusing wild animals.
He said photos of the alleged abuse were taken during a translocation operation of a wild elephant from a Human-Elephant Conflict Area in Kampung Bauto, Telupid, to a protected forest reserve, some 200km away in February last year.
“In this particular case, my team was up against a rogue bull elephant that was exceptionally dangerous and was a huge threat to the lives of the rescue personnel, as well as the villagers.
“Hence, the added precaution and care had to be taken by my staff.
“In normal cases, when we deal with a more cooperative wild elephant, the translocation process is done more smoother and with less risk,” Baya explained in a statement today.
In the same statement, SWD assistant director-cum-Wildlife Rescue Unit manager Dr Sen Nathan explained that elephant translocations were a very dangerous activity and would only be conducted as the last resort when the animal was a threat to villagers.
“Sometimes, the operation needs to be done as soon as possible to stop these elephants from causing more damage, but mostly to protect the villagers.
“But no two elephants act the same way. In the case in Kampung Bauto, we were up against a very dangerous and very wild elephant.”
Sen said when dealing with a cooperative elephant, they would be allowed to move along on their own by pulling on the chains.
Poking it with a blunt metal pole was necessary to divert its attention and guide it into the crate.
“To sum up, poking using the blunt end metal pole is to divert the attention of the animal to ensure it walks in the right direction.
“It is not meant to hurt the animal. Let me assure you that this elephant was not hurt in any way.”
He explained that elephant translocations involved tracking of the elephant, followed by darting them with tranquillisers, restraining them, transportation and releasing into a safe site.
After the first tranquillisation, done normally during capture, the elephant would not be sedated until the release.
“Therefore, the transfer of the animal into the translocation crate or release site is done with the elephant wide awake, because tranquillising the animal more would risk its death,” Sen explained.