Image: Bernard Dupont, Flickr

While African elephants have long been the focus of the global ivory crisis, the Asian elephant population is garnering increasing interest — resulting in the death of some of the world’s tiniest elephants.

Asian elephants are currently listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature attributed to a 50% population decline in the last sixty years. This elephant species reaches an average of eight feet in height which is small compared to their 10-15ft tall African relatives. The Bornean pygmy elephant is the tiniest Asian elephant of all — reaching an average of two feet in height.

Recently in Sabah, Malaysia, two Bornean elephants were found killed for their tusks. One of the elephants named Sabre bore unusually shaped tusks and had recently been the focus of both science and the media in the months leading up to his extermination.

Image: Shankar S., Flickr

Conservationists and investigators have surmised the rising interest for Asian elephant tusks could be credited with their rarity and possible higher market value. Only male Asian elephants bear tusks — making their elusive ivory that much more expensive.

China serves as the primary destination for illegal ivory products and although they have promised to enact a country-wide ban on the ivory trade by the end of the year, conservationists are skeptical as to their efficacy for its enforcement.

Bornean elephants are the most endangered elephant species due to their unique miniature size and limited geographical range. While habitat degradation due to human activity and excessive deforestation have historically been the primary enemies of these tiny creatures, poaching has officially become an imminent threat. 

The knowledge that even the world’s tiniest elephants are being specifically targeted for their tusks speaks volumes about the growing depth of the cruel worldwide ivory crisis.