What are Borneo elephants?

©WWF-Malaysia/ Engelbert Dausip

The Borneo elephants, found only in Borneo, are shy and generally avoid people as much as possible. They are smaller in stature compared to their fellow Asian elephants in Peninsular Malaysia.
As adults, these forest herbivores can eat up to 150 kg of vegetation per day, feeding mostly on palms, grasses and wild bananas. They also love durian and will roll the entire fruit – spikes and all – in mud, then swallow it whole!

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Good seed disperser:

As their diet includes forest fruits, these elephants help carry seeds across long distances through the forests. The seeds are passed through their digestive system and are deposited far and wide, thereby helping the spread of new plants and trees which serves as food and shelter for other wildlife in the area.


Elephants are an umbrella species:

Elephants are mega gardeners that help to regenerate forests, so protecting more of their habitat and therefore their survival means protecting habitats of many other species as well.

© Cede Prudente / WWF

Everybody benefits when we conserve elephants and their habitats. Lush forests are not only important for wildlife but also to mankind – it is nature’s gift to us to slow down climate change, provide freshwater and reduce flash floods, provide breaths of fresh air and create a healthy ecosystem.


  • Forest conversions resulting in loss of habitat

Large mammals such as the Borneo elephant require ample space to roam, mate and feed. However, large blocks of forests have been fragmented by conversion of extensive natural forests to commercial plantations. This has shrunk the elephant’s range considerably.

  • Human-elephant conflicts

Farmers and plantation workers sometimes plant crops that elephants like to eat such as palm trees. Having oil palm plantations near elephant habitats, which is a common occurrence in Malaysia, is akin to opening a fast-food restaurant next to a high school full of hungry teenagers. Hence, elephants should not be punished for helping themselves to the feast laid in their path.

While farmers will understandably try to protect their crops, some may resort to dangerous tactics out of frustration. Sadly, these tactics may end up with both the elephants and humans getting injured or killed. This situation is what conservationists refer to as human-elephant conflict or HEC.


Your donation today will enable us to continue with our elephant conservation initiatives such as:-

Conduct elephant satellite collaring

WWF began studying the Borneo elephants in 2005 by attaching satellite collars to five of them, making this the largest satellite tracking study of elephants ever conducted in Asia.

These collars will send GPS locations to a WWF owned computer via satellite as often as once a day. In the event that a Borneo elephant steps into an oil palm plantation, researchers will then receive an alert from the satellite collars and will thus be able to perform the necessary steps to avoid a human-elephant conflict. This creates a safer environment for both elephants and humans.

© A. Christy Williams / WWF

A significant conservation effort was achieved! WWF-Malaysia’s persistent advocacy for forest protection status received a positive response from the Sabah Forestry Department in 2014. Protection for the forest connectivity was established in the elephant range between Gunung Rara and Ulu Segama forest reserves.


Thanks to donors like you, these forest areas are now protected by the law from any form of land conversion or degradation due to timber exploitation.


Your generous donation today, no matter how small, will go towards our elephant conservation initiatives.