Borneo Elephant

The Borneo elephant, short for the Borneo pygmy elephant, is a sub-species of the Asian elephant. Their origin has been highly debated. It was believed that they are descendants of the now-extinct Javan elephant brought to Borneo as gifts and then released into the wild. But studies have shown that they might have become isolated from their ancestor and evolved into their species.

Scientific Classification

E. m. borneensis

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

E. m. borneensis

Borneo Elephant


Size: Length: Male: 5 ft 6 in-8 ft 6 in (1.7-2.6 m) Female: 4 ft 11 in-7 ft 2 in (1.5-2.2 m)

Weight: 4,000 lb (1,800 kg)

Body and Coloration: One of the distinct physical features distinguishing the Borneo from most other Asian elephants is its large, plump appearance. They have big ears that actually look larger than what they are because of their small, round face. These elephants even have shorter trunks and a relatively long tail touching the ground in certain individuals. Some males display tusks, which are shorter and straighter than those of Indian elephants, but the females have protruded teeth called tushes.

Borneo elephants range from black to brown to gray in color.

Range and Distribution

These elephants reside in the north and northeastern parts of Borneo. This includes the Lower Kinabatangan floodplain in the state of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, and, sometimes, the Indonesian state of East Kalimantan.


Their preferred habitats included lowland forests which get flooded every rainy season.

Borneo Elephant Habitat
Pictures of Borneo Elephant


Herbivorous in nature, the Borneo elephant feeds primarily on grasses, roots, leaves, fruits like bananas, and palm trees.


The Borneo elephant is long-lived, with an average of 60-75 years.


  • They are social creatures who live in groups of 8 led by a matriarch. However, larger groups have been observed closed to riverbanks.
  • It is gentle and docile compared to its ancestor the Asian elephant which is more aggressive. This has led scientists to believe that the Borneo elephant may have evolved from a domestic collection of elephants.
  • Despite being the largest mammal found in the jungles of Borneo, its movements are careful and do not damage the environments while doing so.
Borneo Elephants
Borneo Pygmy Elephant


Due to their large size, these elephants have no natural predators.


  • The legs of the Borneo elephant are thick and sturdy, which is necessary to support their heavy bodies.
  • Like all elephants, their tusks serve several uses. They use the tusks as defense against potential threats while also digging the ground in search of water and food like bark and roots.
  • The trunk is used to pick up items as well as to transfer food and water to their mouths.
  • Their skin is thick and covered with small hair to avoid overheating during the day.

Mating and Reproduction

Very little has been discovered about the mating habits of these elephants, but it is assumed that, like other elephants the females become receptive for only a short period of time. A single elephant can give birth to only seven calves throughout their lifetime.

Borneo Pygmy Elephant Baby
Pygmy Borneo Elephant

Life Cycle

After a gestation period of around 19 – 22 months, a single baby elephant, called a calf, is born. However, the pregnancy may get extended if unfavorable conditions like drought persist. The young get their nutrition from their mother’s milk for 3 – 4 years until they become sexually mature at 10 years of age. Before they reach sexual maturity, the males will live with their mother.

Conservation Status

As per the IUCN, the Borneo elephant is “Endangered” or “EN” and has been classified as such since 1986. Currently, there are around 1500 of them left in the world. The main reason behind their decline can be attributed to fragmentation and loss of habitat. Under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment Schedule II in Malaysia, anyone found guilty of hunting the Borneo elephant risks five years imprisonment or a $RM 50,000 fine or both.

Several ways exist to save this elephant, including raising awareness, promoting eco-tourism, and providing natural corridors.

Borneo Elephant Images
Borneo Elephant Picture

Interesting Facts

  • The only known Borneo elephant in the United States is a female named Chendra. She was found orphaned and injured in the wild after a crop raid in a palm oil plantation and currently lives in the Oregon Zoo in Portland.

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