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Poachers are now targeting the world’s smallest elephants

The remains of a beloved male pygmy elephant known as Sabre were found on New Year’s Eve in Sabah, Borneo, according to a new report from The Guardian. Sabre was the second pygmy elephant found in the month of December that had been slaughtered by poachers.

The Borneo pygmy is the smallest breed of elephants in the world and there are only around 1,500 left in existence, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The pygmy elephants have over-sized ears and baby faces, with a more gentle nature than other Asian elephants.

Sabre had been rescued by members of Sabah’s Wildlife Rescue Unit from a palm oil plantation in October. He was nicknamed for his unusual tusks that curved downward like the teeth of a sabre-toothed tiger. Sabre was released into the wild, as poaching was not yet considered to be an issue in this region.

The pygmy elephants of Borneo have been classified as endangered for several decades due to habitat loss and deforestation, and now they have another serious threat to contend with.

Benoit Goossens has a background in conservation genetics and is the director of the Danau Girang Field Centre, a research and training facility co-managed by Sabah Wildlife Department and Cardiff University.

Goossens told The Guardian: “My hope is that Sabah wakes up…we are losing our megafauna, the rhino is gone, the banteng [wild cow] is going, the elephant will be next. Those crimes should not go unpunished. Let’s not lose our jewels, the next generation will not forgive us.”

Goossens said that the gruesome discoveries indicate the presence of a professional hunter and trader in the area.

Wildlife veterinarian Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam was one of the team members who helped to rescue and relocate Sabre.

“There are no words to express our sadness,” Nagalingam told The Guardian. “It looks like there is no safe place for elephants in Sabah anymore. The relevant authorities who are responsible for enforcement of illegal wildlife poaching and other illegal activities must work harder and smarter.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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