Best time to travel to Malaysia

Pygmy Elephants in Malaysia

The world's smallest subspecies of elephants live in Malaysian Borneo

Best time: June–September

Pygmy Elephants
Pygmy Elephants
Pygmy Elephants
Pygmy Elephants
Pygmy Elephants

Do you remember Dumbo—the elephant with huge ears portrayed in a Disney cartoon? You might think that such animals don't exist in real life, but it actually resembles Borneo elephants.

There are about 1,500 Borneo elephants, which inhabit mostly the Sabah region of the island. Their origins come from Asian elephants, but still, they are quite different. A bit smaller in size, big ears, long tails, gentle nature—all these features describe Borneo subspecies and the reason they are called pygmy elephants.

Most Borneo elephants can be found in the area around the Kinabatangan River. Some are kept in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve and some inhabit the adjacent dipterocarp forest. This region gets lots of rain throughout the year, but the least rainy days generally occur between June and September. This is also a good period to see orangutans in the wild.

Practical info

What is the difference between Asian elephants and Borneo elephants?

Despite being a subspecies of Asian elephants, Borneo elephants have a separate evolution in their respective habitats, which gives them distinguishable features like bigger ears and longer tails. They weigh about 1,000 kg less than Asian elephants, and have a more gentle nature with less aggressive behaviour. These differences are what sets them apart from other wildlife elephants. Show more

How many Borneo elephants are left in the wild?

Borneo elephants are an endangered species with approximately 1,500 left in the wild. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), habitat loss and poaching have contributed to their declining population. In Malaysia, government-led conservation measures such as the Borneo Elephant Action Plan have been implemented to drive the conservation and protection of these animals. Show more

Where is the best place to see Borneo elephants in Malaysia?

The Kinabatangan River area in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo is home to a high concentration of Borneo elephants. These elephants can also be spotted in the nearby Tabin Wildlife Reserve. However, visitors must follow ethical guidelines to help protect the elephants and minimise their impact on the population in their natural habitat. Show more

When is the best time to visit Malaysia to see both Borneo elephants and orangutans?

June to September is the best time to visit Malaysia to see both Borneo elephants and orangutans. During this dry season, most of the Borneo elephants can be found around the Kinabatangan River area, while wild orangutans are easily spotted in their natural habitats. Visitors are advised to avoid the monsoon season, which occurs from November to February, as it may impact their activities and visibility. Show more

What are the distinguishing features of the pygmy elephant subspecies found in Malaysia's Borneo?

The pygmy elephant subspecies found in Malaysian Borneo has few distinguishing features; their smaller size with a height ranging between 6-7.5 feet, and weight between 2,000 to 3,000 kg sets them apart from their Asian elephant counterparts. They have bigger ears and longer tails, and are gentle in nature with less aggressive behaviour. These elephants are rare among other wildlife elephants. Show more

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