Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Extinct' elephant may have been found again -- on a different island

21.04.2008
The Borneo pygmy elephant may not be native to the island of Borneo after all. Instead, the population could be the last survivors of the Javan elephant race – accidentally saved from extinction by the Sultan of Sulu centuries ago, suggests an article co-authored by World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The origins of the pygmy elephants, found only on the northeast tip of the island in part of the Heart of Borneo, have long been shrouded in mystery. Their looks and behavior differ from other Asian elephants and scientists have questioned why they never dispersed to other parts of the island.

But today’s paper, published in the peer-reviewed Sarawak Museum Journal, supports a long-held local belief that the elephants were brought to Borneo centuries ago by the Sultan of Sulu, now in the Philippines, and later abandoned in the jungle. The Sulu elephants, in turn, are thought to have originated in Java, an Indonesian island that is across the Javan Sea from Borneo.

“Just one fertile female and one fertile male elephant, if left undisturbed in enough good habitat, could in theory end up as a population of 2,000 elephants within less than 300 years,” said Junaidi Payne of World Wildlife Fund, one of the paper’s co-authors. “And that may be what happened in practice here.”

Javan elephants became extinct sometime in the period after Europeans arrived in Southeast Asia. Elephants on Sulu, never considered native to the island, were hunted out in the 1800s.

“Elephants were shipped from place to place across Asia many hundreds of years ago, usually as gifts between rulers,” said Mr. Shim Phyau Soon, a retired Malaysian forester whose ideas on the origins of the elephants partly inspired the current research. “It’s exciting to consider that the forest-dwelling Borneo elephants may be the last vestiges of a subspecies that went extinct on its native Java Island, in Indonesia, centuries ago.”

If the Borneo pygmy elephants are in fact elephants from Java, an island more than 800 miles south of their current range, it could be the first known elephant translocation in history that has survived to modern times, providing scientists with critical data from a centuries-long experiment. Their possible origins in Java make them even more a conservation priority.

Scientists solved part of the mystery in 2003, when DNA testing by Columbia University and WWF found that the Borneo elephants were genetically distinct from Sumatran or mainland Asian elephants, leaving either Borneo or –under this new theory– Java as the most probable source.

The new paper, “Origins of the Elephants Elephas Maximus L. of Borneo,” shows that there is no archaeological evidence of a long-term elephant presence on Borneo, thus making Java the possible source.

There are perhaps just 1,000 of the elephants in the wild, mostly in the Malaysian state of Sabah. WWF has captured and placed satellite collars on 11 elephants since 2005 to track them since they had never been studied before. The study has shown they prefer the same lowland habitat that is being increasingly cleared for timber, rubber and palm oil plantations.

By satellite tracking of some of these elephants, WWF unknowingly may have been investigating the history of a very old experiment: the introduction of elephants from one island, where they eventually went extinct, to another, where they are still alive, said Michael Stuewe, elephant biologist for World Wildlife Fund.

“Unraveling the secrets of this experiment would be invaluable for conservation as it would guide our efforts with many species that are facing extinction today,” Stuewe said. “I can only hope that the fierce competition Borneo’s elephants face from commercial plantation industries for the forests they call their home does not interfere with their very survival.”

For more than 45 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature. The largest multinational conservation organization in the world, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level, from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.

Sarah Janicke | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wwfus.org
http://www.worldwildlife.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Despite government claims, orangutan populations have not increased. Call for better monitoring
06.11.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Increasing frequency of ocean storms could alter kelp forest ecosystems
30.10.2018 | University of Virginia

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

NIH scientists illuminate causes of hepatitis b virus-associated acute liver failure

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

The unintended consequences of dams and reservoirs

14.11.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>