A Rare Experience
We felt extremely privileged to see the Pygmy Elephants in Borneo.
These Borneo Elephants are the cutest elephants you have ever seen! They look like they are straight out of a Disney movie. They have big baby-face heads, big floppy ears, chubby tummies, straight husks and long tails. Apparently, they are quite gentle unless extremely provoked.
Playing in the Mud
At first the Pygmy Elephants were walking into the forest, but they must have decided that we needed a little show, and slowly they started to turn around and come back.
It was thrilling to watch them play in the mud, which they love…
And fun watching them chase each other all in a row and play fight…
One elephant fell into a pond just as I turned off the video, of course. The expression on his face was priceless. That wide-eyed look of surprise and shock as he felt into the water was like watching anyone falling into a lake. As he tried to scramble out, he kept slipping and falling back in. Eventually though, he made it out – covered in mud.
These were a group of young Pygmy Elephants, only 1-3 years old. They played like toddlers, running around, pushing each other, then stopping to eat leaves.
Good Videos of the Cute Pygmy Elephants
Unfortunately, our videos of the Borneo Elephants did not turn out that well. Remember, we said we were still learning to take good videos. Truth be told, we were so much more focussed on watching the elephants and having this rare experience that we didn’t care too much about taking videos, but we did find this video of Borneo Pygmy Elephants on YouTube.
There is another video on YouTube about 18 Pygmy Elephants being poisoned. While the quality of both videos is not great, the experience is obviously genuine.
The Smallest Elephants on Earth
The Pygmy Elephant is one of the most endangered species in Borneo, and their population has declined by over 50% in the last 60-75 years. They are also indigenous to Borneo. While extinction of animals is a natural phenomena (otherwise we would still have dinosaurs), it would be a shame to lose these beautiful animals.
After counting dung piles in 2008, a census revealed that there were only about 1200-3600 Borneo Elephants left in the area they inhabit in North Kinabatangan and the Sabah forest. Newer figures say there are only 1500 Pygmy Elephants left in Borneo.
Asian Elephants in general are smaller than African Elephants, however the Borneo Pygmy Elephants are still huge animals. The weight of Baby Pygmy Elephants is 100 kg at birth! Yet these are the smallest elephants on earth. And adult Pygmy Elephants can run 43 km an hour – faster than any human.
As development in Borneo’s Sabah region expands through activities such as logging, plantations and bridge-building, the elephants migration routes have become disrupted, their food sources have become depleted and their habitat gradually becomes destroyed.
Though we hear about these situations around the world where humans move in and destroy the natural habitat of wildlife, it becomes truly real when you see the elephants first-hand right in front of you.
The Oregon Zoo in Portland has the only Borneo elephant in the United States, a 21-year-old female orphan by the name of Chendra, who was found alone, hungry, and injured in the wild after her herd was crop-raided in a palm oil plantation.
Ecological Awareness in Borneo
In Malaysia, The Borneo Elephants are protected under schedule II of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment. Any person found guilty of hunting elephants (common for the ivory tusks) is liable on conviction to a fine of $RM 50,000 ($15,000 CAD) or five years imprisonment or both.
Everywhere, as we travelled throughout Sabah, Borneo, ecological awareness was in evidence. From the effects of beach litter to cultural preservation to re-forestation to a passion for championing wildlife, the focus on protection of the natural environment is a tribute to the people of Borneo.