Endangered Pygmy Elephant Shot Dead For Destroying Crops on Borneo Island

A pygmy elephant. A villager in a remote settlement shot and killed an endangered pygmy elephant on Borneo island after it destroyed palm oil trees. Wildlife authorities found the animal's body on Monday Sylvain CORDIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

A villager in a remote settlement shot and killed an endangered pygmy elephant on Borneo island after it destroyed palm oil trees.

Local wildlife officials are now investigating the elephant's death after the body was found on the side of a road Monday on the Malaysian part of Borneo, a local wildlife department director Augustine Tuuga told the AFP.

"(The elephant) was killed out of revenge for destroying crops," Tuuga said.

An endangered pygmy elephant is killed in Malaysian part of Borneo island ‘out of revenge for destroying crops’ https://t.co/E5AShlCHzM

— AFP News Agency (@AFP) July 26, 2018

An autopsy of the body determined that its cause of death was from a bullet hole in the right side of its abdomen.

"The wound was traced and it led to the finding of a bullet pellet inside the abdomen," wildlife officials from Sabah Wildlife Department said in a statement.

"Some parts of the intestines were torn. There was a severe internal bleeding inside the abdomen suggesting several blood vessels were damaged," public relations officer Siti Nur'Ain Ampuan Acheh told The Star newspaper.

The wildlife official, Tuuga, called the killing "merciless."

Pygmy elephants are baby-faced with huge ears, plump bellies and long tails that often drag on the ground. There are only an estimated 1,500 left in the wild, according to environmental group the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

They roam the rainforest in Borneo, the world's third-largest island, which is shared between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. There, these animals sometimes fall victim to poachers looking to harvest the animal's tusks to sell on the black market. But the creature that was found dead on Monday had tusks that remained intact.

This is just one of many rare species one in the Malaysian rainforests that have fallen dramatically in recent decades, according to the AFP.

Many species struggle to survive because of agriculture and settlements encroaching on habitats. Poachers also hunt the animals for their body parts that are often used in traditional Chinese medicine.

In May, six Borneo pygmy elephants were found dead in Malaysian palm oil plantations. Wildlife officials thought that the animals might have accidently consumed fertilizer. No wounds were found on their bodies, so these animals might have been drinking from poisonous watering holes, The Star newspaper reported at the time.

At least 18 pygmy elephants have been found dead in Malaysian Borneo since April. Most of the animals were killed by poachers or from poisoning.