Police have recovered a pair of tusks sawn off a Borneo pygmy elephant, which was riddled with 70 bullets at Sungai Udin, close to a Felda plantation.
The tusks were wrapped with gunny plastic and buried underneath a banana tree about 10km from where the elephant was killed.
District police chief Assistant Commissioner Peter Umbuas said one of the six suspects who were arrested had led police to the location.
He said more suspects or accomplices, including tusks buyers would be arrested.
“Police would like to advise firearms owners not to abuse the licences or lend them to unlicensed people.
“We will not compromise on any wrongdoings, whether it is to animals or others,” he added.
Earlier, police detained six people during an operation in the Felda Umas area from midnight till noon today.
The arrests, under ‘Ops Khazanah’ (Operation Heritage), followed a tip-off and a meeting with Sabah wildlife officers earlier.
The first suspect was detained at Felda Umas 4 at 12.20am.
“Subsequently, our team hauled in three other men in the same area. They are detained for poaching as well as for being in possession of homemade firearms,” Umbuas said.
The remaining suspects were picked up this afternoon.
The men were aged between 48 and 68. Only one is a local while the rest are foreigners.
Two of the suspects are plantation workers tasked to deter wild animals from going into the plantation.
Police also seized 56 live bullets, 53 bullet shells and three firearms, including a homemade weapon called bakakuk believed to be used in the heinous act.
Umbuas said the killing had occurred about 9am on Sept 23 and the carcass was discovered a few days later by the public.
He said the motive was to kill the elephant for the tusks, in the course of fulfilling their duties to guard the plantation.
A post-mortem revealed 70 gunshot wounds on the body with a bullet piercing its head.
“The suspects are being investigated for owning illegal firearms as well as Section 25(1) of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment for hunting without a licence from the Sabah Wildlife Department,” Umbuas said.
If convicted, the men face five years behind bars and a fine of RM250,000, he added.
“One of the suspects claimed they did not shoot the animal 70 times but admitted firing repeatedly,” he said.
Umbuas said the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) was involved in the preliminary discussions after the death of the elephant. The NGO voiced concern that the authorities were unable to stop the killing of wildlife, especially elephants, in Sabah.
He also thanked the public for the tip-off that led to the arrests.
“Those who provided the vital information seemed to genuinely want the killers to be brought to justice and not just for the RM30,000 reward.”