Sabah, a Malaysian state in northern Borneo, is home to a population of approximately 1,500 Bornean elephants. The smallest of the Asian elephants, the Bornean elephant is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as an endangered species. In the last 40 years, Sabah has lost 60% of its elephant habitat to plantations, and elephants are now spending a majority of their time in those plantations or are moving through them to get to fragmented forest patches. With more and more forests cut down to make way for palm oil plantations and other agriculture, the elephants’ shrinking habitat brings them closer and closer to people, increasing the instances of human-elephant conflict in the region.

From 2017-2020, there were 30 elephant deaths reported in Sabah, believed to be a result of conflict with humans. While not all these deaths are captured on camera, they all are equally devastating to a species that is survived by less than 1,500 individuals in the wild.

If we continue to take matters lightly, then we will be moving one step closer to the possibility of seeing the complete loss of the Bornean elephants in our lifetime.

What is WWF doing for the Bornean Elephants?

Recognised as unique to Borneo and with the small population remaining albeit in a fragmented range, WWF-Malaysia sees the urgency in protecting the endangered Borneo Pygmy Elephants. Here’s what we’re doing:

  • Elephant satellite collaring to identify their key space requirements and to reduce future conflict,
  • The establishment of wildlife corridors to connect fragmented habitats,
  • Promoting a harmonious relationship between humans and wildlife, as well as
  • Collaborating with government and non-government agencies on wildlife surveys, research, and building capacities of protected area management.

All these efforts include massive amounts of teamwork and constant funding for continuous research. An activity such as satellite collaring is critical to conservation efforts as these collars are able to provide information to researchers on elephant movement and space requirements. This data can also help in making changes to land use in order to find a long-term solution for the conflict that elephants have with people.

Milestones Achieved: 

In 2014, through data obtained from elephant collars WWF-Malaysia, along with our conservation partners in Sabah, WWF advocated for protection status to forests in Gunung Rara to establish forest connectivity in the elephant range between Gunung Rara and Ulu Segama forest reserves. In response, the Sabah Forestry Department upgraded some 60,000 hectares of commercial forests as protected forests.

Continuous hard work and funding are required in order to gain further achievements in the conservation of elephants and other wildlife in their habitat. But we need your help to continue our work to protect Borneo’s gentle giants.

Please help save Bornean elephants today.