Bornean Elephant

Project Description

Bornean Elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis)

IUCN Red List category & criteria: Endangered A2c ver 3.1
Project Coordinator: Dr Nurzhafarina Othman

Recent Publications:

Behaviour and Spatial Ecology of the Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) in Lower Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo.

Protected area management priorities crucial for the future of Bornean elephants.

Title: The Movement Ecology and Behaviour of the Bornean elephant in the Highly Fragmented Habitat of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Malaysia, Borneo

PhD Candidate: Nurzhafarina Othman

Institution: Cardiff University

Supervisors: Benoît Goossens and Rob Thomas

Duration: Completed


The Bornean elephant is one of the four recognized Asian elephant subspecies. They are genetically different to all other Asian elephants with some differences in morphology and behaviour. Having the distribution range of this subspecies will help with their management in the state, and therefore will determine its future. This project explores the movement ecology of the Bornean elephants in the highly fragmented habitat of the Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain. The goal is to assist the management and conservation of Bornean elephant based on rigorous scientific findings.

Research Objectives:

  1. To analyse the utilization distribution of elephants in Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS).
  2. To identify elephant habitat preference and its determinants.
  3. To identify functional corridors for elephants in LKWS.
  4. To quantify activity budget of elephants in riparian habitat in LKWS.


We used the dynamic Brownian bridge movement model (dBBMM) to quantify a probability of habitat use based on its movement path rather than individual points and accounts for temporal autocorrelation and high data volumes. The significance of this approach is the ability to distinguish between different behaviour types rather than assuming migration along an entire path. Therefore, it will allow us to see the linking between movement and behaviour of animals to their environment.

To quantify the functional corridors, we will apply spatial graph as analytical tools to study the effects of landscape fragmentation on elephant movement and persistence

Title: Living with Elephants: Long term solutions for human-elephant conflicts in Sabah

Duration: On-going


DGFC is assisting the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) to understand the movement of elephants in other parts of Sabah besides the Lower Kinabatangan. The areas are mainly in the Telupid Complex, Lahad Datu and Central Sabah. The main goal of this project is to try to find long term solutions to reduce human-elephant conflicts by giving early warning to the SWD and people about the movement of elephants so that early precautions can be taken to avoid any harm both to people and elephants.

Elephants are regarded as a flagship species for the conservation of biodiversity. By having knowledge of the areas that are crucial for elephants, we will ensure the survival of this and other animal species. At the same time, we need to find long term solutions to reduce and minimize the conflict between people and elephants. We hope to increase the level of tolerance from people, and create awareness among all the stakeholders who are involved directly and indirectly with elephant conservation in Sabah through data sharing, disseminating the results publicly, and regular discussions.

Recently, GPS data from 29 elephant individuals and from airborne LiDAR forest mapping was used to model the distribution of elephants throughout Sabah in the most wide-scale analysis of forest use by Bornean elephants to date. Flat lowland areas, with optimal forest stature of ~13 m, were found to be of highest suitability for elephants. These habitats are at high risk of conversion, often viewed as suitable for oil palm cultivation.

Less than a quarter of fully-protected intact forests in Sabah were of suitable stature for elephants, whereas disturbed commercial forest reserves were found to be highly suitable. Therefore, a focus on the sole protection of remnant primary forest is detrimental to the future of the Bornean elephant.

More on this project is found here