Orphaned Baby Elephant Is Rescued, Makes A Best Friend

The picture was a tearjerker: a baby elephant trying to revive his dead mother with his little trunk. She and the other thirteen Malaysian pygmy elephants in his herd were apparently poisoned to death in the Gunung Rara forest reserve. Their bodies were found in an area that was being converted from forest to commercial farmland.

Left alone the orphan surely would have died, but thankfully he was found, and there was room at the inn. Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Malaysia’s Sabah state took the little guy in and named him Joe, short for Kejora (“Morning Star”).

Video credit: Reuters/NTD.TV

When Joe arrived at Lok Kawi, he was separated from the other elephants because workers didn’t know the cause of his mother’s death; if it was a bacterial infection, they feared that Joe might spread it to other sanctuary residents. Officials have since identified the poison that killed his mother and has released Baby Joe from quarantine.

Today, Baby Joe is thriving. Since his rescue, he has more than doubled in weight, from 90 kg to almost 200. He has bonded with his caretaker, Augustine, who can be seen here giving the fuzzy tot a bath. He also has a new best friend: Bikang, a four-year-old fellow pygmy elephant. Bikang found his way to the sanctuary when he was discovered injured in the wild after losing part of his trunk to a trap.

Bikang will likely move to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Borneo Pygmy Elephant Sanctuary and spend his life there. Officials expect Baby Joe to follow him a couple years later, but don’t know whether he will stay. While they hope that eventually Joe can be released to the wild, it may not be possible because he is now used to humans — though even wild pygmy elephants are known to be more gentle and friendlier to humans than Asian elephants.

As the World Wildlife Fund puts it, “Walt Disney himself couldn’t have crafted a cuter elephant. The pygmy elephants of Borneo are baby-faced with oversized ears, plump bellies and tails so long they sometimes drag on the ground as they walk.”

A mere 1,500 pygmy elephants survive today, most of them in Malaysia. The animals are threatened by deforestation. They need large, continuous tracts of forest to find enough food to keep their massive bodies going, but humans are breaking up the forests to sell the lumber and convert the land to commercial farming. As a result pygmy elephants have less food available to them, and they are encountering humans more often when they return to former feeding spots and find the trees replaced by people.

The World Wildlife Fund has called on the Malaysian government to do more to protect pygmy elephants by listing them as “totally protected,” protecting their habitat from loggers and increasing patrols to prevent illegal actions.

Like Baby Joe’s herd, an elephant herd in Sumatra was killed by poisoned fruit that people left out for them to eat, National Geographic reports.

If local governments do not take steps to protect the endangered elephants and their habitats, people will continue to take their land and kill them to protect it.

Related Story:

What, or Who, Killed 10 Rare Borneo Pygmy Elephants?

Photo credit: Reuters/NTD.TV via YouTube


Melania Padilla
Melania P4 years ago

I saw this story weeks ago, so heartbreaking.... Animals do not deserve to suffer this way!!

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

jan macek
jan macek4 years ago

Why should we be surprised? We put rat and mouse poison outside and kill owls, coyotes, snakes, raptors etc. that ingest the poisoned rodent. The US has to clean up it's act too. We cannot point fingers at other countries until we do something about our stupid, intentional poisonings.

Claudia Cavallo
Claudia Cavallo4 years ago

what a shame, I have no words, glad little Joe is ok

Gabriela Baldaia
Gabriela Baldaia4 years ago

Heartbreaking ...

Nora McKellar
Nora McKellar4 years ago

such a heart breaking story, those poor elephants...glad there was a happy ending for at least one of them.

it breaks my heart all the damage humans continue to do to animals and our environment.

Manuela C.
Manuela C4 years ago

Such sad story... Glad that baby survived!

Manel Dias
Manel Dias4 years ago

Who ever the evil subhuman/s murdered these Malasian Pygmy Elephants should be brought to justice. Punish them severely to fit the crime and lock them up for no less than 25 years in a filthy prison cell so they will have enough time to think and figure out what they had done to destroy the planet earths wonders which was not belong to them. The main problem of these crimes today are due to not giving the sufficient punishments to fit the crimes.

David V.
David V4 years ago

So sad that all those elephants were poisoned....so glad the orphan was rescued and living a healthy life.

GGma Sheila D.
GGmaSAway D4 years ago

The people who do these horrific things are heartless and greedy. It seems the government is allowing it to continue by the virtue of doing nothing to stop these people.