Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012

Javan Elephants

Javan elephants became extinct sometime after Europeans arrived in Southeast Asia — or so scientists thought. That belief persisted until 2003 when researchers discovered the Borneo pygmy elephants were actually the likely descendants of the Javan elephant. Locals believe the Sultan of Sulu, an island now part of the Philippines, transplanted the elephants from Java to the neighboring island of Borneo hundreds of years ago. Centuries ago, elephants were often shipped across Asia as gifts between rulers, so it's possible that the Sultan of Sulu gifted the Javan elephants — and ultimately saved them from extinction. A 2003 study corroborated this theory by showing the Borneo elephant species was genetically distinct from other Asian elephant species and that the species most likely originated in Java. Additionally, there was no evidence of long-term elephant habitation in Borneo. Though the pygmy elephants might be genetically distinct, much like their larger cousins, they can take down a lot of vegetation, up to 330 lbs. a day.