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They are tamer, smaller and they have a mild temperament compared to other Asian elephants.  DNA tests confirm they are a new species, the Borneo “Pygmy Elephants.”  The Borneo pygmy elephant is slightly smaller than mainland Asian elephants, that stand 6.6 to 9.8 feet at the shoulder and weigh 2.25 to 5.5 tons, and African elephants stand 8.2 to 13 feet tall and weigh 2.5 to 7 tons.  September 3, 2003 WWF-Malaysia chairman Tengku Zainal Adlin congratulated the Sabah Wildlife Department on the discovery of the new variety.  Tengku Zainal said in a statement that the elephants were a distinct subspecies and had different characteristics from their cousins found on mainland Asia and Sumatra.  WWF’s Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy programmer had set out to collect the elephant’s dung for studies.  Mr. Zainal Adlin said “Samples were collected from different parts of Sabah, namely the lower Kinabatangan, Kalabakan Forest Reserve and Ulu Segama Forest Reserve.  The mucus adhering to fresh elephant dung contains epithelial intestinal cells which are used for DNA testing.  DNA samples are unique to each individual.  This technique of obtaining DNA does not harm the elephants, as they are not captured for testing.”  The samples were sent to Columbia University’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology for DNA analysis and compared with samples from Asian elephants from other countries.  The DNA showed that for about 300,000 years the Pygmy elephants had been separated from their cousins on mainland Asia and Sumatra.  Mr. Zainal Adlin added that “During that period, these elephants became smaller with relatively larger ears, longer tails and relatively straight tusks,” and that “Borneo’s elephants are genetically distinct and this rejects the argument they were introduced to the island.”  The conservation of such a species is of the utmost importance.  Mr. Tengku Zainal Adlin also said that  “They should not be crossbred with other Asian elephants, and it is recommended that research on their reproductive rates, juvenile survival and other indicators of detrimental effects of inbreeding be carried out next.”  It is estimated that only 15,000 Borneo pygmy elephants total are in existence according to WWF.  NationalGeographic  comp.jpgAll quotes are from a 2003 article by Susan Tam.

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