Environmental studies and Forestry Paper on the Borneo Pygmy Elephant Management and Recovery Plan

The Borneo Pygmy Elephant Management and Recovery Plan


The Borneo pygmy elephant was first identified as an endangered species in 1986 by the WWF.  Three decades since and the current situation shows that there are only 1500 of these animals in the wild. From such a statistic, it is evident that in the near future, approximately two decades; this animal may be considered extinct in the wild and only in captivity where the remaining population will be protected. Elephant species have been subject to an augment amount of risks over the last half a century as more human social and economic activities have taken up most of their habitats as well as an increase in poaching.  According to Loong (2015) of all the elephant species that currently survive the Borneo pygmy elephant is the one most at a risk of extinction because of three primary reasons. Firstly, there is limited information about the animal. Since 1986, there has been limited information about Borneo pygmy elephant that is relevant in helping the recovery process. Secondly, the population size of the animal is extremely low. Current research by the WWF indicates that there are only 1500 Borneo pygmy elephant living in the wild (cite). Finally, the recovery strategies and policies employed by the authorities remain unsuccessful in the animal’s recovery process. This essay is a presentation of a management and recovery plan for the Borneo pygmy elephant. The article is dissected into two parts; the first is based on understanding the endangered species and the reasons or risks that make the Borneo pygmy elephant a candidate of extinction.  Additionally, this part will highlight the reasons why the animal’s population has not been improving over the three decades since it was identified as an endangered species. The second part discusses the management and recovery process required to help the Borneo pygmy elephant flourish.


Part 1

Species Status

The Borneo elephant species distribution

Today there are approximately 1,500 pygmy elephants (Elephas Maximus Borneensis) in the wild. Since 1986, this species has been considered an endangered species, based on the fact that its population had halved by the end of three generations (Rautner, Hardiono, & Alfred, 2015). The Borneo elephants are located to the northern locations of Borneo. Over the years, the Sabah location that is inclusive of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve and adjacent dipterocarp forest had remained undisturbed consequently allowing the population of pygmy elephants to flourish over time (Phillipps & Phillipps, 2016). The same can be said about the population of the species that is located in Kalimantan.

Sources; http://www.worldlandtrust.org/images/animals/borneo-elephant-map.jpg

The Borneo elephant species Ecology and Habitat

In reference to their food patterns, the Elephas Maximus Borneensis are herbivorous depending on plants as their main food. Despite their name, Borneo pygmy elephants grow up to 2.5 meters and are as similar in size in reference to other Asian elephant species ; however, they have different facial features such as larger ears and straight tusks. According to Phillipps and Phillipps, (2016), the animal’s size determines the amount of food consumed in a day; nonetheless, on average a Borneo elephant consumes about 150 kg of plants every day.  It is for this reason that the Sabah and Kalimantan location host these gentle giants. Over the last few years, varieties of scientific researchers have been using satellite tags to map the animal’s behaviour in its natural habitats.  For instance, a recent research by Alfred et al., (2012) indicates that Borneo elephants are restricted in reference to the herds they live in, unlike their African cousins and face depression in addition to other psychological issues that are a result of their continuous decreasing numbers.

From the image presented above, it is evident that the Borneo elephant habitats are shrinking. Sabah and Kalimantan state regions have been invaded by agriculture and consequently there have been rolling effect that has seen the number threats against the species  become augmented over the years.

Threats facing the Borneo elephant species

According to a report by Alfred et al., (2012) in 1986, the Borneo elephant species was considered as endangered when the animal’s populations were dropping rapidly over three generations. This was a consequence of the animal’s habitat acreage shrinking as more human economic and social activities such as farming took more land. Extinction is a sad reality when it comes to elephant species. The Wooly Mammoth (Mammuthus Primigenius) and Mastodon (Mammutid proboscideans) are already extinct Elephant species. However, according to history, their extinction came as a result of nature.  The Borneo Pygmy Elephant is one of the world’s most fascinating creatures; nonetheless, unlike their extinct cousin, their threat towards extinction are far from natural.

Threat from humans

The biggest threat facing the Borneo elephant species  is the influence from human beings. According to Loong (2015), human beings affect the population of the Borneo elephant in  two ways namely;

Threat on habitat.

Encroachment into Borneo elephant habitats. Agricultural practices have seen human being encroach into both the Sabah and Kalimantan locations reducing the amount of space that the Borneo elephant thrive. A recent study tracking the endangered species  conducted by Goossens, et al., (2016) indicated that the remaining herds are under threat from forest fragmentation as well as loss of habitat.  Borneo pygmy elephants thrive on flat, low lands as well as river valleys; however, these types of terrain are preferable to commercial plantation.  Rautner, Hardiono, and Alfred, (2015) indicate that over the last half a century, approximately 40% of the forest located in  Sabah on the northeastern part of Borneo has been cut down to give way to human settlement and palm oil tree plantation. It should be noted that Sabah hosts the largest number of Borneo pygmy elephant species on the Island.  Evidently, due to such a large reduction of habitat, the movements of the elephants has been noticeably affected and the survival risk has been augmented considering the fact that humans are not friendly to the animals. Alfred (2012) indicates that the gathered data collected from the study indicated that due to increased killings by farmers it is estimated that there are only approximately 1,000 pygmy elephants remaining in the state of Sabah, and not 1,600 as earlier estimated. From this information, it is a fact that the numbers are reducing due to a reduction in habitat acreage.

Threats by foreign diseases.

As earlier indicated there is significant encroachment by humans into the areas once known as pygmy elephant habitats. Consequently, the introduction of other animals as well as the use of chemical compounds on the farmlands have introduced new diseases in the area. Therefore, the risks of diseases on the animals directly has seen the rise of illnesses such as Pasteurellamultocida in the area. Additionally, chemical compounds used for weed control has seen food supply reduce; indirectly affecting the pygmy elephants population.

Threats from poachers

The Borneo elephant though smaller than its African cousins also have tusks that have seen them become hunted towards extinction. According to Alfred, Ambu, Nathan and Goossens, (2011) farmers killed the Borneo elephant due to their destruction on farmlands initially. However, with time they were killed for their tusks as well as other body parts that are shipped to nearby China to be used as medicine ingredients.

Threat from predators      

As humans keep reducing the Borneo elephant habitats the animals have been forced to take refuge into areas where their predators have a higher advantage. As earlier explained the Sabah location is adjacent the dipterocarp forest and the Borneo elephant have been forced into these area. The consequence of this is that animals such as tigers and jaguars are the prime predators that hunt the Borneo elephant extensively.

The above-mentioned threats have been augmented over the decades. The Borneo elephant had for a long time been threatened by human interaction; however, on a small scale level. Currentily, as there has been more need for land the altercation between man and beast have been more frequent causing a reduction in the animal’s population. According to Loong, (2015) human interaction is the reason why the Borneo elephant has seen its number dwindle instead of flourish; consequently, there is a need for the current population management plan that is supported by a recovery of the species.

Part 2

Endangered Species Management and Recovery Plan

  The purpose of the management plan

From the text aforementioned, it is clear that the threats facing the Borneo elephant are less of natural consequences. Consequently, coming up with measures that will increase the animals population beyond extinction are achievable. The purpose of this management plan is to reduce the threats that have seen the reduction of Borneo elephant numbers.

In reference, to the Borneo elephant the objectives will be attained through two primary processes namely;

  1. Relocation of some Borneo elephant to other areas that are less affected by human social and economic activities as well as predators.
  2. Setting up orphanages and game reserves that will be used to aid orphaned calf to grow to maturity as well as researchers learn more about the animal that will help in developing strategies that will help the recovery process of the species.


As from the data presented in figure 1, it is evident that the areas once inhabited by the Borneo elephant are significantly shrinking. As earlier stated one of the threats, facing the pygmy elephant, is the reduction or fragmentation of forests and reduction to their habitats. Currently, the government through initiatives promoted under the “Heart of Borneo” agreement, ensures that the rapid depletion of forestland throughout central Sabah will not be experienced in the future. However, for a fact when engaging in a species management and recovery program it can be argued that the remaining land is not enough to host a large population of pygmy elephants. Additionally, a larger crowd of the animal would mean more attraction with farmers. Therefore, there is a need for relocation of some animals to other less populated locations as well as game reserves. This solution will see an increase in the pygmy numbers without the risk of human attraction.

Additionally, relocation in game reserves will allow scientists study the animals more keenly; therefore, information such as breeding practices may be better understood consequently aiding in increasing the population in the long-term. The current conservation efforts to save the Bornean elephant have been placed to protect the animals range as well as better land use. However, as yet, none of the recommendation previous presented has been put to practice, not on the basis of the lack of priority or interest in policy, but the lack of information. Alfred, Ambu, Nathan, and Goossens, (2011) state that the pygmy remains endangered because little is known about the elephant’s habitat use, migration and seasonal movement as well as animal profiling; for example, female behaviour during mating season or bulls risk to other elephants during musk period. There is a significant need to fill in these gaps in the process of enhancing policy priority as well as developing other population recovery strategies for this endangered elephant species in the Sebuku area.


Game Reserve and Orphanage Development

According to Fui and Bema (2005), the management of endangered species requires significant public participation. Using the example of the Panda species in China, there is a need for the public to know more about the animal in question. In reference to this specific case, there is a need to open up orphanages for young elephants and game reserves for the much larger older animals so as to attract the public’s attention. In Africa, one of the solutions that were highlighted to aid in helping the African elephant’s population recovery is the development of orphanages for the young calves where the public bought the younglings, paid for their feeding and safekeeping. After three years of the program, there were more requests from the public in terms of adopting a calf. Therefore, the same services were diverted in developing selected game reserves that would help in the safekeeping of the larger older animals these game reserves have seen a considerable reduction of poaching and an increase in population figures of the largest animal flourish for the first time in decades.



The Borneo pygmy elephant was first identified as an endangered species in 1986 when it was identified that its population hand more than halved in three generations. Currently, it is estimated that only 1500 animals remain in the wild. The Borneo pygmy elephant is found only in the northern and northeastern part of Borneo Island at Sabah and Kalimantan states. The Borneo authorities have been embarking on cautious efforts to increase the elephant’s number s but not much success has been achieved. The reason for this has been highlighted on increasing human social and economic activity that has seen threats facing the Borneo pygmy elephant augment over the decades. Currently, the threats include forest fragmentation, diseases, poaching and increase of predatory caused by human activities. The paper has come up with two primary strategies that will help in the maintenance of the current population as well as growth in population in the long term.


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