Elephant poaching has ravaged populations in Africa for years – and now poachers are starting to target endangered pygmy elephants in Sabah, Borneo. On New Year’s Eve wildlife officials found the bones of Sabre, a male pygmy elephant known for having tusks similar to a sabre-tooth tiger’s. Only days before, they’d found another mutilated male elephant. Both horrifying incidents occurred less than a mile away from each other.

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Sabre was probably murdered in late November. Conservationists fitted him with a satellite collar after finding him on a palm oil plantation in October. They released him back into the wild, as poaching wasn’t thought to be a grave danger to elephants in the area.

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The other unnamed male elephant was likely killed about a month after Sabre; his face had been hacked off so the poacher could grab his tusks. Danau Girang Field Centre director Benoit Goossens said a professional hunter may have cruelly slaughtered the elephants.

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.”

According to the World Wildlife Fund, only around 1,500 pygmy elephants are alive in the world. These small elephants struggling for survival in Sabah face deforestation and habitat loss, mainly at the hands of the palm oil industry.

Wildlife Conservation Society Vice President of Species Conservation Elizabeth Bennett told The Guardian that elephants will be safe from poaching only when ivory markets are closed. China has announced plans to ban the ivory trade by the end of the year – and for imperiled elephants, that date can’t come soon enough.

Via The Guardian

Images via shankar s. on Flickr and Bas Leenders on Flickr