The Borneo Pygmy Elephant



Malaysian Insider

Sabah pygmy elephants confirmed poisoned

June 22, 2013

Handout pic from the Sabah Wildlife Department on Jan 29, 2013, showing Baby Joe, the only pygmy elephant still alive from the herd of 14 found dead at the Gunung Rara Forest, near Tawau, Sabah. – AFP pic

The 14 pygmy elephants which were found dead at a forest reserve near Tawau, Sabah, in January were killed by severe poisoning, Sabah State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Masidi Manjun said yesterday.

Chemical analysis by Australian experts showed that the elephants’ remains contained high levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, iron and chromium, Masidi was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India (PTI).

He added that the authorities were still trying to track down the culprits.

“These metals are usually found around mining, smelting or waste disposal operations. However, this does not make sense as there is no such activity in the area,” Masidi said.

White powder substance found near the body of one of the dead elephants also contained the same ingredients, said Masidi in his winding-up speech at the State Assembly sitting yesterday when replying to a question from Kapayan assemblyman Dr Edwin Bosi.

The findings were made in the toxicology test conducted by the Queensland Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Australia, he said, according to The Borneo Post on its website.

“But it is not rational (to find it at Gunung Rara) because no such activities were taking place there, near the FMU 23. This supports our theory that the toxic substances were deliberately placed near the feeding ground of the elephants with the intention to hurt them,” he said.

The PTI report quoted Masidi as saying the Wildlife Department officials sent out specimens of the dead elephants to various research institutions in the peninsula, Thailand and Australia to obtain feedback on how the animals had been killed.

Masidi said the Government had been transparent in handling the matter and was working with various wildlife NGOs for long-term conservation efforts of the elephants. – June 23, 2013.



  • 28 Feb 2013
  • The Star Malaysia

Rescuers save 10 pygmy elephants

Jumbos wandered off from reserve to Lahad Datu

KOTA KINABALU: Quick action by wildlife rescuers saved a herd of 10 Bornean pygmy elephants that had wandered off their range and ventured as close as 10km from the east coast town of Lahad Datu.

To where it belongs: An elephant named Bikang 1 being transported onto a waiting truck to the Tabin reserve.The rescue unit from the Sabah wildlife department captured and relocated the nine female adults and the lone male, a four-yearold calf, in an operation from Jan 18 to Jan 25.Disclosing details of the eight-day roundup here yesterday, unit senior officer Jibius Dausip said the elephants had ventured more than 45km from the Tabin wildlife reserve.“We received a call from Sri Tungku Simpang Ladang Permai, near Lahad Datu, that the elephants were roaming near his house,” he said.

Wildlife rangers rushed to the scene and captured the elephants using tranqualiser darts.

Department veterinarian Dr Diana Ramirez said the female elephants were transported to the Tabin reserve, with two of the largest animals fitted with satellite collars provided by the Danau Girang Field Centre.

The calf was transferred to the Low Kawi wildlife park, near here. “Its trunk was severely injured, probably from a snare trap. Without captive intervention it would have little chances of survival in the wild,” she said.


The death toll just went up to 14!



Fourteenth rare Borneo pygmy elephant found dead

Posted on 31 January 2013 – 03:58pm
Last updated on 31 January 2013 – 05:32pm
This handout photo taken on Jan 31, 2013 shows a wildlife official attending to an orphaned three-month-old baby pygmy elephant at Lok Kawi Zoo in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia’s Sabah state. AFP / SABAH WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 31, 2013): A fourteenth rare Borneo pygmy elephant has been found dead of suspected poisoning, officials said Thursday, the latest in a series of fatalities that has shaken conservation efforts.

Meanwhile, an official warned that a three-month-old baby elephant, poignantly photographed trying to nuzzle its dead mother, was losing weight fast and may not survive.

Fourteenth rare Borneo pygmy elephant found dead


Malay Mail

SAM: Punish those responsible for elephants’ deaths

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 – 18:52

Alam Malaysia (SAM) has urged the Sabah Wildlife department and the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry to carry out an in-dept investigation and penalise the culprits responsible for the carnage of the pygmy elephants

“We view the death of 10 pygmy elephants at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve as the worst disaster to have happened in 2013.

SAM: Punish those responsible for elephants’ deaths


Malaysian Insider

Three more dead elephants found in Sabah

January 30, 2013

KOTA KINABALU, Jan 30 — Three more Pygmy elephant carcasses have been found in a forest near Kalabakan, Tawau on the east coast of Sabah today, raising the total to 13 to date.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said Wildlife Department personnel found the latest carcasses in the same area where the 10 dead elephants were discovered earlier.

He said based on an initial examination of the elephant carcasses, the cause of death was likely to be poisoning.

“This is the initial lead obtained but we are still waiting for more conclusive evidence,” he told reporters after attending a state level 1 Malaysia Assembly at Dewan Sa’adah, Wisma MUIS which was opened by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

Three more dead elephants found in Sabah


A pygmy elephant calf walks next to its dead mother in Gunung Rara Forest Reserve in the Malaysia’s state of Sabah on Borneo island, in this picture taken January 23, 2013 and released to Reuters January 29, 2013. Ten endangered Borneo pygmy elephants have been found mysteriously dead in Malaysia’s state of Sabah on the Borneo island, as reported by Malaysia’s daily The Star.

A pygmy elephant calf walks next to its dead mother in Gunung Rara Forest Reserve in the Malaysia's Borneo island

A pygmy elephant calf walks next to its dead mother in Gunung

Malaysia's wildlife officials inspects the dead pygmy elephant in Gunung Rara Forest Reserve in the Malaysia's Borneo island

Malaysia’s wildlife officials inspects the dead pygmy elephant in Gunung Rara Forest Reser…

Reuters via Yahoo! News – Jan 29 12:47am


Sabah wildlife authorities formed a task force with police and WWF to investigate the deaths of some 10 endangered pygmy elephants which are believed to have been poisoned. AFPpic/Sabah Wildlife Department


There are fewer than 2,000 Borneo pygmy elephants, which are smaller and have more rounded features compared to normal Asian elephants, left in the wild, according to authorities.

Malay Mail

10 rare pygmy elephants found dead in Borneo

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 – 17:09
pygmy elephantsA wildlife department official assists a baby elephant to drink water next to a dead pygmy elephant (R) in the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, some 130km from Tawau in Sabah. AFPpic/Sabah Wildlife Department

TEN endangered pygmy elephants found dead this month are thought to have been poisoned, Malaysian officials said Tuesday as they released poignant photos of a calf nuzzling the body of its mother.

Wildlife authorities in Sabah, a state on the east of Borneo island, have formed a taskforce together with the police and WWF to investigate the deaths.

Laurentius Ambu, Sabah wildlife department director, said it received a report last Wednesday of four dead pygmy elephants in the Gunung Rara forest reserve.

But officials were “shocked” to find another four of the animals, a rare sub-species of the Asian elephant, dead or dying after inspecting the area for two days, he said.

“Early this year, two highly decomposed elephant carcasses were found in the general vicinity of where these eight animals were found. We believe that all the deaths of these elephants are related,” he said in a statement.

10 rare pygmy elephants found dead in Borneo


New Straits Times

11 December 2011

Hot on trail of elephant with broken tusk

By Roy Goh and Avila Geraldine

Team from Wildlife Department scours the 120,000ha reserve on foot

Wildlife Department rescue unitWildlife Department rescue unit inspecting the area yesterday where Australian tourist Jenna O’Grady Donley was gored to death by a bull elephant at Tabin Wildlife Resort in Lahad Datu, Sabah. Pic by Datu Ruslan Sulai

THE search for an elephant with a broken tusk that gored an Australian tourist to death  continues at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve here.

A team from the Wildlife Department’s wildlife rescue unit was on alert, conducting foot patrols within the 120,000ha reserve, to search for the bull elephant.

If found, the elephant is expected to be translocated to an elephant sanctuary.

On Wednesday, Australian tourist Jenna O’Grady Donley, who was due to graduate as a veterinarian on Friday from Sydney University, died after she was attacked by the elephant not far from the Tabin Wildlife Resort.

Her friend, Ashley Kelly, and a guide from the resort escaped unhurt in the attack.

They had earlier gone to the mud volcano in the reserve before veering off from the main trail, which was normally used by the resort’s guests, into the forest where the incident occurred.

Following the fatal incident, Tabin Wildlife Holidays Sdn Bhd has stopped guests from trekking to some parts of the resort, including preventing them from walking the elephant trail.

The resort also forbids its guests from venturing alone and too far from the resort.

Tales of the elephant making occasional appearances within the reserve have also surfaced among the small number of people who work in the area, about 50km from the town centre.

Akilan Amsaludin, 57, who works as a foreman maintaining the road and drainage system in the area, said he had had several encounters with elephants since he first arrived at the reserve in August.

The experience working deep in the jungle has made him cautious about getting too close to the animals, especially those that roam on their own.

“If they are tunggal (solitary male elephants), I will keep my distance,” said Akilan, who claimed to have seen the elephant with the broken tusk twice before the attack happened.

In his last encounter, Akilan took a photograph of the elephant using his mobile phone and revealed that he even “spoke” to the animal, asking it for permission to be in the area.

He believed in “communicating” with animals and had even sacrificed chickens and goats to appease the wildlife in the reserve.

“This place is panas and it’s part of my beliefs to do these things,” he said, adding that he and 10 other workers had never been attacked.

John Toledo, 55, who does maintenance work in the reserve, said encounters with wildlife, including elephants, was a regular occurrence for him and his colleagues.

“We have even strategically positioned two containers to protect us in case the elephants appear,” he said.

About 1,500 tourists visit the Tabin Wildlife Resort nature trails every year and about 80 per cent are from abroad.

Going in search of wild elephants has always been the highlight at Tabin although it also offers the best bird-watching site in Borneo.


The Star

Sunday December 11, 2011

Witnesses: Killer elephant was in musth


KOTA KINABALU: The Borneo pygmy elephant that gored Australian tourist Jenna O’Grady Donley to death at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve on Dec 7 was said to be in musth.

(Musth is a state or condition of violent, destructive frenzy occurring with the rutting season in male elephants, accompanied by the exudation of an oily substance from glands between the eyes and mouth.)

Witnesses had observed that the bull elephant was discharging the oil-black substance from its ears which, experts said, was a secretion known as temporin (a thick tar-like secretion).

“It looks like Donley was just in the wrong place. It was unfortunate that this particular elephant was in musth and was aggressive,”’ a source here told The Star.

He said elephants in musth, including those in captivity, have attacked humans before.

Sydney-based veterinarian Donley, 26, was gored by the bull elephant while she was taking pictures of the animal during a morning outing at the wildlife reserve with her friend Ashley Kelly and a guide from the nearby Tabin Wildlife Resort.

The other two managed to flee from the angry animal. However, Donley, who arrived in Malaysia on Nov 26 for a holiday in Sabah, had no time to escape.

Donley recently completed a thesis on renal failure in big cats and was due to graduate with first class honours on Dec 16.

Sydney University veterinary science faculty dean Prof Rosanne Taylor said Donley was a dean’s list prize winner and a future leader of the profession.

“She was very much the face of Australian veterinarians of the future … she will be very much missed.”


New Straits Times

12 December 2011 | Last updated at 12:46AM

An uncommon death

The tragic demise of an Australian tourist serves to put the spotlight on saving rather than shooting elephants

AUSTRALIAN Jenna O’Grady Donley, who was pierced to death by the tusk of a Borneo pygmy elephant at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah on Wednesday, was no ordinary tourist. The 26-year-old, who was due to graduate with first-class honours in veterinary science this week, was described as the “face of Australian veterinarians of the future”. As photographs of her with elephants, lions and cheetahs at a wildlife sanctuary in Africa show, she had an affinity for big animals and a passion for wildlife conservation. Unfortunately, all the training and rapport with animals could not save her when the single bull elephant charged at her as she was photographing it because, as her mother said on Australian radio, solitary bull elephants are unpredictable, fast, aggressive and protective. Perhaps she got too close, or the shutter and flash startled the elephant, or the bull was in musth. Whatever it was that provoked the elephant to attack, this was a very tragic accident.

Indeed, it is not only the first time that a person has been killed by an elephant at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve but also a rare instance of deaths from confrontations with single bull elephants in Sabah. In recent years, there have been only two reported fatalities, and these occurred when elephants strayed into human settlements rather than humans venturing into elephant territory. In fact, in recent years, when elephants forage for food in villages, they are no longer shot at by game wardens. In Sabah, culling of rogue elephants that raid plantations, orchards and farms and damage crops had stopped in 1994. When once planters were well-equipped with guns to shoot the elephants, they have now put up electric fences to keep them out.

Fences and translocation may not be perfect solutions to the problems caused by wild elephants. But unless we want to see a further decline in the population of the endangered elephants, shooting them is not the answer either. Elephants may rightly be regarded as pests when they destroy crops, but human actions pose a greater threat to their survival than they to us. The present order to track down, capture and relocate rather than kill the rogue bull elephant that gored Jenna to death would have met with her approval.


A pygmy elephant is NOT SMALL. It is smaller than other elephants but can reach a height of 2.5meters, which makes it taller than any human.

The photo below shows how large it is compared to a man.

pygmy elephant


The Star

Friday December 9, 2011

Question mark over fate of killer elephant

KOTA KINABALU: Conservationists are unsure over the next course of action to take against a bull that gored an Australian tourist at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

The killer Borneo Pygmy elephant is among 300 to 500 elephants that roam the reserve.

A conservationist said the elephant had not trespassed into settlements occupied by humans.

“In this case, it is humans who have trespassed into their territory. How can we blame it?” asked a Sabah-based elephant conservationist who declined to be named.

On the other hand, the elephant had attacked a human and there is a possibility that it could do so again, he said.

Among the options are to relocate it to captivity or even putting the elephant to sleep, the expert added.

A single bull elephant, according to wildlife experts, can be dangerous and aggressive.

Jenna O’Grady Donley is the first person to be gored by an elephant in the Tabin reserve though there have been two fatalities – one in Tongod involving a villager and a plantation worker in Tawau.

In both cases, the elephants had strayed into settlements.

Meanwhile, a medical examination conducted at the Lahad Datu Hospital indicated that Jenna had died from multiple piercings by the tusk of the elephant.

The body of the 26-year-old is expected to be flown back to Australia today.

Australian gored to death by pygmy elephant

Updated December 08, 2011 10:46:01

The mother of the Australian vet killed by a rare pygmy elephant in a remote wildlife park in Borneo has paid tribute to her daughter.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that 25-year-old Jenna Donley was attacked and gored by the eAustralian vet killed by a rare pygmy elephant in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Malaysia’s Sabah state.

State wildlife department director Laurentius Ambu said Ms Donley was trekking with a friend and a Malaysian guide when they were charged by the elephant.

Mr Ambu told the AFP news agency that the bull may have been startled when the two tourists tried to take its photo.

While the guide and one woman managed to get away, the elephant’s tusk pierced Ms Donley’s body and she died instantly, he said.

This morning Ms Donley’s mother Liz told ABC radio she wanted to pay tribute to her daughter’s achievements in the veterinary science field.

She said losing her only child was a tragedy.

“This was an animal by itself, and they startled it,” she said.

“Both her friend and Jenna weren’t reckless people – they’re very measured and careful, respectful of animals’ environments. So this is an accident that’s happened – a very tragic accident.”

Liz Donley’s full interview with 774 ABC Melbourne’s Jon Faine.

Mrs Donley said her daughter had recently finished her studies in veterinary science, and said she hoped she would be remembered for her work in the field.

“Jenna has recently completed her thesis on renal failure in big cats. This is most important research for the zoos that have big cats,” she said.

The 25-year-old had previously worked with big cats while volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa.

Mr Ambu said the women had trekked to a mud volcano but were disappointed that they did not see much wildlife so the guide took them back another way and not on the main path.

Police are questioning the guide.

Pygmy elephants, which are about about 2.5 metres tall compared to around 3 metres for mainland Asian elephants, are unique to Borneo.

Authorities say the elephant, a sub-species of the Asian elephant, is considered endangered, with only around 1,500-2,000 left.

Mr Ambu said fatal attacks are rare, though single elephant bulls are known to be aggressive.



Sydney Morning Herald

Australian woman killed by elephant

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

December 8, 2011

Gored to death ... Jenna O'Grady Donley.

AN AUSTRALIAN tourist has been gored to death by a bull elephant in a Malaysian wildlife reserve.

Jenna O’Grady Donley, 26, a Sydney-based veterinarian, was attacked by the elephant yesterday, Malaysian newspaper The Star reported. The animal was apparently startled by the sounds of a camera’s shutter and flash.

Witnesses said that she could not escape in time as the elephant suddenly charged at her while her female companion and guide escaped in the attack at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah.
While the guide and the other woman managed to get away, the elephant’s tusk pierced Ms Donley’s body and she died instantly, the state wildlife department director Laurentius Ambu said.

State Wildlife Department director Laurentius Ambu said the women and their guide had gone to a nearby mud volcano and decided to take the wildlife trail on their way back to the resort, The Star reported. Mr Ambu said the group had gone off the trail to take photographs of the wild elephant, which he suspected was a single bull.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) confirmed that a 25-year-old from NSW had died in Malaysia and that her death was believed to be the result of an elephant attack.

“We are providing consular assistance to her family in Australia,” DFAT said in a statement.

“The family has requested that their privacy be respected.”

Single bull elephants normally isolate themselves and their behaviour is difficult to predict and often dangerous, he said.

Mr Ambu learned that the women had stopped about 10 metres from the animal and started taking photographs.

This might have provoked the elephant, which suddenly turned around and charged at them, he said, adding the others escaped but Ms Donley could not as she was the closest to the animal.

He said police were investigating the attack.


The Star

Thursday December 8, 2011

Elephant gores tourist to death


KOTA KINABALU: An Australian female tourist was gored to death by a bull elephant that charged at her as she was photographing it in Sabah’s Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Jenna O’Grady Donley, 26, a Sydney-based veterinarian, was attacked by the elephant, which was apparently startled by the sounds of the camera shutter and flash in the 6.30am incident yesterday.

Witnesses claimed that she could not flee in time as the elephant charged at her suddenly. Her woman companion and guide escaped the attack at the 123,000ha wildlife re-serve about 100km from Lahad Datu.

State Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said a group of women and their guide had gone to a nearby mud volcano and decided to take the wildlife trail on their way back to the resort.

Dr Ambu said the group had gone off the trail to take photographs of the wild elephant, which he suspected was a single bull.

Single bull elephants, he said, tend to be loners and were dangerous with their unpredictable behaviour.

Dr Ambu said the women had stopped about 10m from the animal and started taking pictures.

He said this might have provoked the elephant.

He added that the others escaped but the woman could not as she was the closest to the animal.

The woman’s remains have been sent to a hospital in Lahad Datu.

The department’s wildlife unit chief veterinarian Dr Sen Nathan said a team had been sent to check on the bull and to ascertain the situation concerning the animal.

“We have to check if the elephant was in a state of musth (when testosterone levels are high and the animal becomes aggressive and unpredictable) and see what needs to be done,” he said.

Dr Sen said this was the first time such an incident had occurred within the wildlife reserve although there had been two other cases of elephants goring humans in Sabah over the last decade.


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5 Responses to The Borneo Pygmy Elephant

  1. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Pingback: The Borneo Elephant Sanctuary (BES) | weehingthong

  3. Pingback: Elephants | weehingthong

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