Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I was lucky enough to see and spend time with some pygmy elephants in Borneo, along the Kinabatangan River. The first night we were there, we looked for the elephants and could see where they had been - areas of pushed down grass along the river bank, but they did not come out. We stayed out looking for them until after dark. The guide and the boatman said they could smell them nearby...and sure enough, we did hear them calling to each other.
The second night (apparently the elephants typically make their appearance in the evening) we were lucky enough to find the elephants. My group of 7 people were really interested in wildlife, and everyone was very quiet and patient and so we sat with the elephants and watched them for over an hour. At one point another boat came by, but most of the time we had them to ourselves, which was great.
I was surprised by many things. First, they are SO cute because they are SO small compared to the African elephants I have seen!!! They are about 5 or 6 feet tall. It is really hard to get a photo with any sense of scale at all. But, I tried to get the trees and the grass and the elephant in one of these shots for some perspective. The grass is about 5' tall, that would be my best guess - but it is hard as I was sitting in the boat and not walking through the grass.
I was also surprised at how close we were to the elephants. In the water, we were only a few feet from them. They were tolerant, so they must be reasonably habituated to the boats.
I saw a baby pygmy elephant playing in the water with obvious pleasure for a very long time. I was surprised that all of the elephant, even the trunk tip, went underwater. I was also delighted to see the elephants blowing bubbles in the water, like when kids blow through a straw.
Overall, these elephants looked like mini versions of the elephants I have seen in Africa. The ears are different, and the fact that these females don't have tusks.