The Borneo Pygmy Elephant: Nature in Focus – Eco Companion

The Borneo Pygmy Elephant: Nature in Focus

This week I’m telling you about the cutest (and smallest) of all elephants: the Borneo Pygmy Elephant.

With their baby faces, oversized ears and plump bellies, pygmy elephants are quick to win over the hearts of visitors. Found only on the island of Borneo in the Malaysian state of Sabah and part of the Indonesian Kalimantan, they are the world’s smallest sub-species of elephants. They are about a fifth smaller than the Asian elephants.

Pygmy elephant hugging

Pygmy elephants, gentler and less aggressive than their cousins, were once thought to be the descendants of a domestic herd that belonged to the Sultan of Sulu. However, DNA analysis has shown that they are genetically different from the mainland Asian elephants and that they may have separated from them some 300,000 years ago. This discovery proved that pygmy elephants are in fact a distinct sub-species, thereby making their protection and conservation that much more important.

Pygmy elephants playing

There are less than 1,500 pygmy elephants left in the wild. Habitat loss caused by deforestation and large-scale agricultural projects such as palm oil plantations is the main threat facing pygmy elephants. Moreover, whilst poaching of elephants for their tusks is not as widespread in Asia as it is in Africa, it still represents a significant threat. Earlier this year, Sabre, a beloved male pygmy elephant known for its unusual downward tusks, was found dead in Sabah.

Help secure a safer and brighter future for this unique animal and the other incredible species sharing the forest with them, by volunteering on The Great Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant Project.

Location: Sabah, Borneo

Project: The Great Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant Project

This project will immerse you in Borneo’s rich array of wildlife. The main aim is to help with the conservation of orangutans and pygmy elephants in the biologically important ‘Corridor of Life’. A protected WWF area, this stunning location is pivotal in ensuring the balance of land-use for both local people and wildlife. Further to conservation work, staying in a local B&B and socialising with the locals offers an insight into their fascinating culture and way of life.


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