Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 8:28 EDT

Borneo Pygmy Elephant

The Borneo Pygmy Elephant, Elephas maximus borneensis, is a subspecies of the Asian Elephant and found in north Borneo. The origin of the Borneo Elephant was controversial. The two competing theories were that they were either native to that region, or were introduced. DNA research has discovered that the Borneo Elephants’ ancestors separated from the mainland population during the Pleistocene Era, about 300,000 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.

Photo Credit: (2003) Borneo Elephants: A High Priority for Conservation. PLoS Biol 1(1): e7.

Borneo Pygmy Elephant