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

Since the start of this year, ten endangered Borneo pygmy elephants have been found dead in the forests of Sabah in Malaysia and wildlife officials suspect poison is the cause.

In mid-January, the bodies of four elephants were initially found in the Gunung Rara Forest Preserve. Then, four more were discovered dead or dying the week after while oficials said that two “highly decomposed elephant carcasses” had also been found earlier in the year.

The elephants were from 4 to 20 years old. Seven were female and three male. A three-month baby elephant was found beside its dead mother, trying to revive her.

Some elephants in Sabah, which is located on the Malaysian island of Borneo, have been killed for their tusks. But officials said that the ten dead elephants bore no sign of gunshot injuries wounds — an indication of poaching — and all still had their tusks. The elephants all appear to be from the same family group. They had suffered severe hemorrhages and ulcers in their gastrointestinal tracts; according to officials, if they were poisoned, it was not necessarily intentional.

Lisa and Alec/flickr

Pygmy Elephants Need the Forests But Developers Want the Land

Malaysia’ Environmental minister Masidi Manjun said the discovery of so many dead pygmy elephants is a “sad day for conservation and Sabah.” His words resonate: Fewer than 1,500 pygmy elephants remain, the result of their jungle habitat being destroyed to make way for plantations of palm oil, rubber and timber, as well as for human settlement. Indeed, over the past half-century, 40 percent of the forest cover of Sabah has been lost.

It was only in 2003 that DNA testing confirmed that Borneo pygmy elephants are a distinct subspecies. They are found mainly in Sabah and grow to be about eight feet tall, with babyish faces, long tails and straight tusks. They are said to be of a more gentle disposition than other species.


Conservation efforts have helped to stabilize the numbers of pygmy elephants but far more can be done. Sabah and the lowland forests of the “Heart of Borneo” (which covers 240,000 sq kilometers of rainforest that straddles the border between Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia) are two of the remaining places in the world where there are still large-scale tracts of natural forests, where some the greatest biodiversity of wildlife exists. Orangutans, elephants and rhinos still live in forests that, for the time being, are large enough to support their populations.

But a 2007 WWF report suggests that Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, home to many Borneo pygmy elephants, may be too small and too fragmented to support them for the long term. Satellite tracking of some elephants has only revealed the extent of threats from logging and deforestation. The flat, lowland forests and river valleys that the elephants need to survive are precisely the place where the “most intensive logging” in Sabah has occurred.

The mysterious deaths of the ten elephants are a tragedy not only for their species and for Sabah, but for biodiversity efforts everywhere. It is a terrible reminder of why we need to push for sustainable, environmentally responsibly development around the world and all the more in places like Sabah, where ten fewer Borneo pygmy elephants are fighting to survive.



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Baby Elephants Captured, Tortured into Submission (Video)


Top photo: papayatreelimited/flickr


Ruth Bell
Ruth Bell4 years ago

i hope these dirty mongrels read this or have it read to them.
they and their fellow greedy excuses of men need educating on the delicate balance that THE EARTHS loss of habitat and animals will ultimately be the end of them as they are ONES destroying the earth and they will pay the price.
I would be very happy to watch them as they die of starvation,thirst,disease or any of other ways their greed has lost ,animals land habit ,water etc and their greedy hands are the cause,,,BOOK ME A SEAT.

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Debbie Tate
Debra Tate4 years ago

Are there any updates or a petition sign?

Lydia Price

I'm not always here, but I haven't found an update on this. Anyone know where one is?

Carrie Anne Brown

sad news but thanks for sharing :)

Sheri D.
Sheri D5 years ago

This is just terrible! These poor elephants!

Waheeda S.
Waheeda E5 years ago

This is so sad. I hope the cause of their death is found as soon as possible. I can't get over the image of the poor 3-month old baby trying to revive her mom out of my head. :(

Past Member
Heather T5 years ago

This looks to me again Greedy people wanting the land and killing these beautiful animals is one way of getting their wish. I hope the government will punish them before it is too late.

Rodney P.
Rodney P5 years ago

Governments have to act more decisively to stop the development of rapidly disappearing pristine environments for commercial crops which result in the targeting of wildlife and the fragmenting of their habitats. They still don't get that these same habitats are just as vital to ours and the climates' long-term survival as well!

Laurie Greenberg
Laurie Greenberg5 years ago

It seems really strange that these elephants' tusks were not taken. Could they have been poisoned by the environment somehow? But, then, why is the smallest one still alive? That picture in my head is the saddest thing. So incredibly sad.