Asian elephants differ in several ways from their African relatives. They have smaller ears, which are straight at the bottom, unlike the large fan-shape ears of the African species. The Asian elephant is also much smaller. Due to habitat loss, fragmentation, poaching and culling for their ivory, and other body parts, it is now endangered and numbers between 38,000 to 51,000 wild individuals compared to more than 600,000 African elephants.
Elephants, being wide-ranging species, need large areas of natural habitat to live and breed. A crucial factor in their survival is, among other things, the availability of large enough areas that are managed sustainably to meet the needs of both human and animal populations. With elephants being squeezed into increasingly smaller habitats only a fraction of its former extensive range, much needed solutions are necessary.
Physical and species description: Genetically distinct sub-species of conservation importance
DNA analysis shows that Asian elephants in Borneo are genetically distinct and may have separated from those in mainland Asia about 300,000 years ago. This discovery highlights the conservation importance of Borneo’s elephants. Due to their small size, gentle nature and relatively large ears, they have been dubbed “pygmy” elephants. Less than 1,500 Borneo Pygmy elephants
(Elephas maximus borneensis
) are found, mostly in the Malaysian state of Sabah. This makes Sabah home to the world's smallest known sub-species of elephants.
Smaller than other Asian elephants, the Borneo Pygmy has a longer tail that reaches almost to the ground and straighter tusks. Their babyish faces and more rotund shape lend them appeal.
Males grow to a height of less than 2.5 meters compared to other Asian elephants that grow to 3 meters.
Asian elephants have dark grey to brown skin. Borneo Pygmys are no different.
These placid pachyderms can be greedy at times. They love durian and will roll the entire fruit - spikes and all - in mud, then swallow it whole!