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Borneo Elephant
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Proboscidea
Family: Elephantidae
Genus: Elephas
Species: E. maximus
Subspecies: E. m. borneensis
Trinomial name
Elephas maximus borneensis
Deraniyagala, 1950

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 is controversial. Two competing hypotheses argued that they are either indigenous, or were introduced, descending from elephants imported in the 16th–18th centuries. In 2003 Canadian Researcher William Sommers, through mitochondrial DNA, discovered that its ancestors separated from the mainland population during the Pleistocene, about 30,000 years ago. The subspecies currently living in Borneo possibly 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. [1] Isolation may be the reason it has become smaller with relatively larger ears, longer tails, and relatively straight tusks. Other scientists argue that the Borneo elephant was introduced by the Sultan of Sulu and abandoned, and that the population on Sulu, never considered to be native, was imported from Java. Thus the Borneo elephant actually may be the extinct Javan elephant. Many facts support this hypothesis, including no archaeological evidence of long term elephant habitation of Borneo, a corroboration in folklore and the lack of the elephants colonizing the entire island of Borneo.[2]


The Borneo elephant is smaller than all the other subspecies of the Asian elephant. The Borneo elephant is also remarkably tame and passive, another reason some scientists think it was descended from a domestic collection. [1][3]

Conservation status

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. [4]

In August 2007 it was reported that there are probably not more than 1,000 pygmy elephants left in Sabah, after a two year study by the World Wildlife Fund. [5]

See also


  1. ^ a b Fernando P, Vidya TNC, Payne J, Stuewe M, Davison G, et al. (2003) DNA Analysis Indicates That Asian Elephants Are Native to Borneo and Are Therefore a High Priority for Conservation. PLoS Biol 1(1): e6 Full text
  2. ^ Presumed Extinct Javan Elephants May Have Been Found Again - In Borneo
  3. ^ WWF News. 2003. New elephant subspecies discovered. WWF - the environmental conservation organisation. Downloaded at 20 August 2006 from this online publication
  4. ^ Fernando P, Vidya TNC, Payne J, Stuewe M, Davison G, et al. (2003) Borneo Elephants: A High Priority for Conservation. PLoS Biol 1(1): e7 Full text
  5. ^ Fewer pygmy jumbos now. Ruben Sario, The Star, Aug 10, 2007. [1]


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