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Pygmy elephant gores handler to death in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – A pygmy elephant gored its handler to death at a wildlife park in Malaysia’s eastern Sabah state in a Christmas Day tragedy, conservation officials said yesterday.

Joe Fred Lansou, 49, was treating an injured calf when another captive adult elephant suddenly “tusked him very badly” in the chest and abdomen, Sabah Wildlife director Augustine Tuuga told AFP.

“He died at the scene,” Tuuga added.

The tragedy took place on December 25 at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park on Borneo island.

“It is truly an unfortunate incident. We will undertake an investigation to determine the cause,” the state’s Minister for Tourism, Culture and Environment, Jafry Ariffin, told AFP.

The park serves as a sanctuary for 16 pygmy elephants, an endangered species, but has just six staff members to manage them.

The elephant that killed its handler was the sole survivor of a deadly poisoning that left a herd of 14 Borneo pygmy elephants dead nine years ago, The Star newspaper reported yesterday.

In December 2011, a wild pygmy elephant killed an Australian tourist at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in the east coast of Sabah state.

Pygmy elephants, unique to Borneo island, are a distinct subspecies of mainland Asian elephants. They are considered endangered, with about 2,000 left in Sabah state.

File photo shows a pygmy elephant at Sabah Rainforest. PHOTO: CNA

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