Borneo pygmy elephants may be extinction survivors
Apr 17, 08 10:27am
Borneo's mysterious pygmy elephants may be the last survivors of Javan elephants thought to have become extinct centuries ago, the environmental group WWF said today.
Researchers believe the pygmy elephants, which are much smaller and more docile than their cousins found elsewhere in, were brought to Borneo by royalty long ago, and then abandoned in the jungle.
"It's exciting to consider that the forest-dwelling Borneo elephants may be the last vestiges of a subspecies that went extinct on its native Java Island, in, centuries ago," said retired Malaysian forester Shim Phyau Soon.
"Elephants were shipped from place to place acrossmany hundreds of years ago, usually as gifts between rulers," said Shim, whose ideas on the origins of the elephants WWF said had inspired the latest research.
Scientists have long wondered about the origins of the pygmy elephant, and why they are found only in a section of Borneo. There are perhaps just 1,000 of them in the wild, mostly in the Malaysian state of Sabah.
WWF said the new study found no archaeological evidence of a long-term elephant presence on Borneo, reinforcing the theory that they were brought there centuries ago by the Sultan of Sulu, which is now in the Philippines.
"Just one fertile female and one fertile male elephant, if left undisturbed in enough good habitat, could in theory end up as a population of 2,000 elephants within less than 300 years," said WWF's Junaidi Payne who co-authored the paper.
"And that may be what happened in practice here."
The pygmy elephant has an appealing rounded appearance, and males stand only about 2.5 metres tall, compared to about 3.0 metres for mainland Asian elephants.
Their faces are smaller and squarer, their tails are longer, reaching almost to the ground, and their tusks are straighter.
Another major difference is their good temperament, calmer even than the Asian elephant which is famously cooperative and hardworking compared to the larger, more aggressive African subspecies which is rarely tamed.
It was only in 2003 that the pygmy elephants were identified as a new subspecies afterfound they were genetically distinct.
WWF said satellite tracking has shown the animals prefer the samehabitat that is being increasingly cleared for timber rubber and palm oil plantations.
"If they came from Java, this fascinating story demonstrates the value of efforts to save even small populations of certain species, often thought to be doomed," said Christy Williams, coordinator of its Asian elephant and rhino programme.
"It gives us the courage to propose such undertakings with the small remaining populations of critically endangered Sumatran rhinos and Javan rhinos, by translocating a few to better habitats to increase their numbers.
"It has worked for Africa's southern white rhinos and Indian rhinos, and now we have seen it may have worked for the Javan elephant, too."
Daripada Abu Umarah iaitu al-Bara' bin 'Azib radhiallahu anhuma, katanya: "Kita semua diperintah oleh Rasulullah s.a.w. untuk melakukan tujuh perkara, iaitu meninjau orang sakit, mengikuti janazah, menentasymitkan orang yang bersin, menolong orang yang lemah, membantu orang yang teraniaya, meratakan salam dan melaksanakan sumpah."