When you look at the picture of this adorable elephant, do you notice anything different or unusual? Look closely – it might not be something you would notice right off the bat. Take a look at this elephant’s tusks…do you see it now? Rather than curl upward, as elephant trunks usually do, this elephant has trunks that curl downward. This makes this elephant look like a saber tooth tiger, garnering the nickname the “saber tooth elephant.” This majestic animal is the first of its kind to be discovered, which has sent wildlife researchers into a (well deserved) frenzy.
Not only is this elephant rare because of its’ unique trunks, but it’s also a Borneo pygmy elephant, meaning that this elephant is unusually small on top of its other one-of-a-kind features. The pygmy elephant was discovered in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo Island, at a palm oil plantation, of all places. The Sabah Wildlife Director, Sen Nathan, calls the discovery “very rare.”
Borneo pygmy elephants are already listed as an “endangered species” by the National Wildlife Foundation, making this extra-special elephant extremely rare. It’s crucial to experts that this extraordinary animal is not only kept safe, but is observed; there are even simple ways that scientists can perform DNA testing on the elephant (by taking a hair, for instance) to determine how the creature was born with its backwards tusks.
However, there are already some pretty realistic theories floating around alluding to the genealogy of the elephant.
“We’re not exactly sure why the tusks are like that but it could be a congenital defect or maybe because of inbreeding,” Nathan said in an interview with Daily Mail.
Although something unusual has obviously occurred genetically, we’re glad to see that it hasn’t slowed this adorable elephant down! He’s now become a fan favorite among tourists visiting the wildlife reserve. Standing at just five feet (which is extremely tiny for a regular elephant, an animal which typically stands at 9 – 11 feet tall) and very friendly, this elephant is happy to pose for pictures with fans!
Nathan also noted that similar elephant was caught on camera a few years ago and in 2015 in Sabah, but no such creature has been spotted in person until now. In an effort to not lose this rarity again, wildlife specialists are staying hot on this elephant’s trail. The wildlife department even plans to send the animal to an elephant sanctuary in Sabahon Saturday until a suitable area in the wild is found where it could be released with a tracking device attached.
“The tusks resemble the prehistoric sabre-tooth tiger, but of course, they are not related,” said Andrew Sebastian, co-founder of the Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia. “It could make wildlife watching in Sabah more interesting.”
But Sebastian warned that the rare elephant’s reversed tusks might create some problems when it comes to his or her interaction with other elephants. To protect or even show affection, elephants often “jostle” each other with their tusks, which will be difficult for this special elephant to be able to do. We hope this will not bode poorly for this obviously sweet animal!
What do you think of this amazing elephant? Share your thoughts on this discovery in the comments section below.