The smallest elephant in Asia, the Borneo, or otherwise known as Pygmy, elephant is a rather charming and adorable creature. This cute animal has a baby-like face, unusually large ears, plump belly and an extremely long tail, which occasionally drag on the ground while the animal walks. Compared to other Asian elephants, Borneo elephant is a more gentle-natured animal. In the past, Pygmy elephants were considered descendants of a domesticated elephant herd, which was given to the Sultan of Sulu in the 17th century. According to WWF, Borneo elephants genetically differ from other Asian elephants. This statement is supported by DNA evidence, which discovered that the species was isolated from their relatives on mainland Asia and Sumatra around 300,000 years ago. As a result, Borneo elephants became smaller, developing larger ears, longer tails and straighter tusks in course of time.
Borneo elephant occurs on the Borneo Island, more specifically, in Sabah (Malaysia) and in Kalimantan (Indonesia). Population in Kalimantan is located in the eastern part of the region, limited to tiny area upper Sembakung River. The preferred habitat of Borneo elephant is lowland rainforests and valleys.
Borneo elephants are sociable animals that live in matriarchal hierarchy. They form small groups of 8 individuals on average, which are dominated by females. However, on riverbanks and other open feeding areas, these animals can be seen in larger groups. Groups of this species are family units, typically consisting of mothers, daughters, sisters and immature males (occasionally - an adult male). Mature males tend to live solitarily or form temporary bull herds. Family units occasionally gather together. This association is highly beneficial for them, helping keep genetic diversity, which, in turn, is vital for their further evolution and survival. These active elephants are known to wander throughout their habitat, travelling up to 25 - 30 miles a day. Borneo elephants are migratory animals. Seasonal migration helps the elephants keep themselves in good physical shape. In addition, when travelling, Borneo elephants often cross rivers and prove themselves to be excellent swimmers.
Little is known about the mating and reproductive behaviors of Borneo elephants. A single calf is produced after a gestation period of 19 – 22 months. The baby feeds upon maternal milk for 3 – 4 years, reaching sexual maturity by 10 years old.
Borneo elephants currently suffer from fragmentation, degradation and loss of their habitat as a result of growing human population, which leads to disruption of their migration routes, depletion of food sources as well as destruction of their natural environment. Elephants frequently eat or trample crops, thus coming into serious conflicts with humans. This causes a high number of mortality not only in animals, but also in humans: as a result, hundreds of people and elephants are killed every year.
According to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) recourse, the total Borneo elephant population is approximately 1,500 individuals. Overall, the Asian elephant is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List.