Pygmy elephants are the smallest of the elephant species and are believed to be the remaining relatives of a herd once belonging to royalty. These small elephants are also called Borneo pygmy elephants because they live exclusively in Borneo, which is the largest island in Asia.
Pygmy elephant males grow to be less than 8 feet 9 inches tall, and weigh around 5,000 pounds. Their closest counterparts are the Asian elephants, whose males grow to 10 feet in height and weigh 11,000 pounds. Pygmy elephant females can be as small as 5 feet tall. Pygmy elephants look almost cartoonish due to their small size, oversized ears, round bellies and long tails that drag on the ground.
They are gentle in nature, especially compared to their Asian counterparts. Believed to be the remains of a domestic herd given to the Sultan of Sulu in the 17th century, DNA evidence concludes these elephants are genetically different than their cousins on the mainland.
While much remains debated with regard to their origin, it has been concluded through genetic testing that these elephants were separated 300 thousand years ago from their Asian cousins, and have developed their smaller size, longer tails, straighter tusks and larger ears over time. Only about 2,000 of these elephants are still in existence. They are endangered due to habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation.