The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) said it is “saddened and appalled” over the recent killing of an endangered pygmy elephant on land owned by Malaysia’s largest producer of palm oil, which is also a RSPO member.
A local news report said that after first blaming poachers for the elephant’s killing, it was discovered that two plantation guards hired by RSPO member, the Federal Land Development Agency (FELDA), to keep wildlife away from company grounds, riddled the elephant with more than 70 bullets, and sawed off its tusks.
The male pachyderm’s mutilated corpse was found floating half-submerged in a river, tied by a rope to a tree on the bank, in the FELDA Umas 4 area in the Tawau district of southwestern Sabah, Malaysia.
“The killing or harming of any animal is unjustified by any organization associated with the RSPO,” said Datuk Darrel Webber, RSPO CEO. “Even more so when you consider that there are less than 2,000 pigmy elephants left in the wild and that the killers allegedly possessed and used illegal firearms. This is completely unacceptable and I will ask the RSPO’s Investigation and Monitoring Unit to see what actions should be taken beyond what Sabah Authorities will bring to bear.”
Palm oil is an ingredient in more than 50 percent of packaged consumer food products – everything from margarine to lipstick. But producing palm oil irresponsibly can cause deforestation, create greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, drive increases in forced labor, and lead to the loss of vital habitats and unique biodiversity. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched RSPO in 2003 as part of an effort to create a sustainable palm oil industry by using environmental and social standards.
“We are appalled with and condemn the actions of the inhumane treatment of the Borneo pygmy elephant, which led to its death,” said Henry Chan, WWF-Malaysia conservation director. “Nonetheless, this strengthens our stand on the importance and urgency for a living landscape which combines the protection of wildlife, production of crops, restoration of habitat, and positive social impacts. The truth of the matter is that elephants will use plantation landscapes, and therefore plantations need to accept that they have to coexist with these animals. Developing wildlife corridors will aid in managing elephant movements, human-elephant co-existence, reduce crop damage from elephants and reduce the risk of elephant and human deaths in agricultural landscapes.”
The Sabah Wildlife Department is considering trying the suspects under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Act for killing a protected species, which carries a maximum five years jail and a fine of about US$60,000 if convicted.