An endangered pygmy elephant was shot dead in Borneo after the animal destroyed villagers’ crops which included palm oil plants. The male elephant, around four years old, was found lying by the side of a road in the state of Sabah, on the Malaysian side of Borneo. The killing of the rare animal was the latest case of human-animal conflict in Malaysia, and it once again highlighted the tragic results of conflict driven by the out-of-control palm oil industry.

The killing was reported by local wildlife department director Augustine Tuuga who called it “merciless” and shared that authorities were now investigating who was responsible, Daily Mail reports. The elephant was shot near a remote settlement, and his tusks were completely intact, which indicated that the animal was not killed by poachers seeking to make money by selling the ivory on the black market. “(The elephant) was killed out of revenge for destroying crops,” Tuuga said.

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The death of the animal is another of the growing number of cases of human-animal conflict in the region – conflicts that are created as human settlements or agriculture expand into natural habitats, causing serious issues for the wildlife. In recent years, the most poignant and severe cases of such conflict have been linked to the palm oil industry and its constant growth. Palm oil has become the most popular kind of oil used in food products, cosmetics, and more. To accommodate a growing number of palm plantations, huge areas of forests are being destroyed, leaving their rightful residents, like orangutans, rhinos, and pygmy elephants, without habitat and forcing them to search for food elsewhere in order to survive. It is estimated that 300 football fields worth of forest are cleared every HOUR to make room for palm oil, and this destruction has gotten so bad that there was even a documented video of an orangutan attempting to fight a bulldozer to protect the last of his home. Additionally, palm oil workers have been known to kill animals that wander onto their plantations without second thought, or if the animals are young and defenseless, they will sell them into the exotic pet trade. 

According to the WWF, the Borneo pygmy elephant’s population is currently at approximately 1,500 individuals. The species is described as more gentle-natured that Asian elephants, and it is now facing extinction in the wild mainly due to habitat loss and conflict with humans. The number of pygmy elephants left in the wild is startlingly small and each and every one of these remaining individuals is important for the survival of the entire species.

Palm oil can be found in the majority of packaged snacks and other popular food items, but many food manufacturers are beginning to offer products specifically free from that ingredient, responding to the consumers’ growing awareness of the issue. To learn more about how you can avoid palm oil, click here, and be sure to share this article and expose the truth about this harmful ingredient.

Image source: Bas Leenders/Flickr

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