Borneo Wildlife, Pygmy Elephant


© david meyer


The Borneo Elephant, also called the Borneo Pygmy Elephant, (Elephas maximus borneensis) is a subspecies of the Asian Elephant and found in north Borneo (east Sabah and extreme north Kalimantan). 

The origin of Borneo elephants was controversial. Two competing hypotheses argued that they are either indigenous, or were introduced, descending from elephants imported in the 16th–18th centuries. In 2003, mitochondrial DNA research has discovered that its ancestors separated from the mainland population during the Pleistocene, about 300,000 years ago. The Borneo elephant became isolated from other Asian elephant populations when land bridges that linked Borneo with the other Sunda Islands and the mainland disappeared after the Last Glacial Maximum, 18,000 years ago.

Since the Borneo elephant became isolated it has become smaller with relatively larger ears, longer tails, and relatively straight tusks. It is smaller than all the other subspecies of the Asian elephant. The Borneo elephant is also remarkably tame and passive, one reason scientists had thought it was descended from a domestic collection.

Wild Asian elephant populations are disappearing as expanding human development disrupts their migration routes, depletes their food sources, and destroys their habitat. Recognizing these elephants as native to Borneo makes their conservation a high priority and gives biologists important clues about how to manage them. In Aug 2007 it was reported that there are probably not more than 1,000 pygmy elephants left in Sabah, after a two year study by WWF.



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