Ten critically endangered Malaysian pygmy elephants were found dead from what appears to be poison in Borneo in the past three weeks — and the mysterious deaths don't appear to be due to ivory poaching.
The National Post reports that the deceased animals were found in the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, located in the state of Sabah on Borneo island.
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The dead elephants were found nearby each other over the course of three weeks, and appear to have all been members of the same family group, says the BBC.
Tusks had been left on the bodies, indicating that the deaths were not due to poaching for ivory. The bodies will be sent for testing to determine if poisoning is indeed the culprit in the mysterious deaths.
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"It was actually a very sad sight to see all those dead elephants, especially one of the dead females who had a very young calf of about three months old. The calf was trying to wake the dead mother up" said Gunung Rara veterinarian Sen Nathan to the BBC.
It's unknown if the poisoning was intentional or not, added the Associated Press.
Pygmy elephants are among the world's rarest pachyderm subspecies, the WWF writes that they are the smallest elephants in Asia, standing from 8 to 9 feet tall when fully grown. Only 1,500 of the rare creatures, genetically isolated from other Asian elephants, currently remain.
Borneo's elephants may actually be the descendants of the Javan elephant, though to have been extinct since Europeans first arrived in Southeast Asia.