Malaysian police arrested four men and seized guns on Wednesday in connection with the brutal killing of a Borneo pygmy elephant, whose body was found with over 70 bullet wounds and its tusks removed.
The male animal’s mutilated corpse was discovered last week half-submerged in a river, tied by a rope to a tree on the bank, in Sabah state on Malaysian Borneo.
It was the latest death of an endangered pygmy elephant, whose numbers have been dwindling because they are targeted by poachers for their tusks and as agricultural plantations expand into their jungle habitat.
Three Malaysians and a foreigner - aged 48 to 68 - were arrested in raids around Tawau district following a tip-off from a member of the public, senior police official Peter Umbuas said.
He did not reveal the nationality of the foreigner.
A shotgun, two home-made rifles and bullets were seized, he said.
“We have applied for remand of the four suspects to assist our investigations,” Umbuas told AFP.
“We are also trying to recover the tusks.”
The suspects were involved in cultivating palm oil and lived in a village on the edge of the jungle.
The men are being investigated under wildlife laws that ban the hunting of pygmy elephants, and face up to five years in jail and a hefty fine if found guilty.
They are also being probed under laws that ban possession of imitation guns.
There are only around 1,500 surviving Borneo pygmy elephants, a subspecies that - despite the name - can reach a height of up to three meters (10 feet), according to the international conservation group WWF.
Rainforest-clad Borneo is the world’s third-largest island and is shared between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.