Borneo elephant

[ bawr-nee-oh el-uh-fuhnt ]
/ ˈbɔr ni oʊ ˌɛl ə fənt /


a notably passive Asian elephant subspecies (Elephas maximus borneensis), found in the tropical rainforests of northern and northeastern Borneo and classified as endangered: DNA analysis since 2004 suggests it may be of a unique indigenous population, rather than an introduced descendant of captive elephants from the 16th–18th centuries, as had long been hypothesized.



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Also called Bor·ne·o pyg·my el·e·phant [bawr-nee-oh pig-mee el-uh-fuhnt] /ˈbɔr ni oʊ ˌpɪg mi ˌɛl ə fənt/ .

Origin of Borneo elephant

First recorded in 2000–05

historical usage of Borneo elephant

The scientific name of the Asian elephant is Elephas maximus, which translates to “greatest elephant,” a name that may be misleading, as African elephants are actually larger. To confuse matters further, the Borneo elephant, an Asian elephant subspecies, is classified as Elephas maximus borneensis (“greatest elephant of Borneo”) and is also known as the Borneo pygmy elephant. Certainly, “pygmy” seems to suggest a dwarf variety within the genus, or at least a much smaller animal than other representatives of the genus. But in fact, the Borneo elephant is only slightly smaller than other Asian elephants.
Belonging to a different genus and living in another part of the world, the African pygmy elephant is indeed a notably smaller version of, but the same species as, the African forest elephant ( Loxodonta cyclotis ). Both the Borneo elephant and the African pygmy elephant are sometimes known by the same name: pygmy elephant. Although it may seem synonymous, the term “dwarf elephant” does not properly refer to either of the two so-called pygmy elephants. Dwarf elephants are prehistoric relatives of modern elephants and are known only from the fossils that show them to have been about one-tenth the size of an average modern elephant. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020