A couple of years ago whilst touring around the Malaysian state of Sabah (on the island of Borneo). Liza and I had a very close call with a small heard of Borneo Pygmy Elephants, on a remote logging road, within the Islands interior. On arrival in Borneo, we knew we wanted to get off the beaten track, and do a bit of off road driving. So we arranged the hire of a basic 4WD from our hotel in Kota Kinabalu.
As the trip was only to be a short time (2 weeks in total) away from Australia, we also decided to spend up a little on this trip, after reading about an exclusive (but quite expensive) eco-lodge. The lodge sounded like a fantastic place for a first hand experience of the jungle’s of Borneo. It’s name was ‘The Borneo Rain Forest Lodge’, and is located on the fringe of the forest’s of the Danum Valley Conservation Area.
We’d only decided to head to the lodge a few hours earlier, after reading a favorable review in our Lonely Planet. Guests of the Borneo Rain Forest Lodge are normally transported the 70km from the main highway to the lodge via private vehicles, but as we had our own 4WD we decided to make our own way in. This proved a little more difficult than we first thought.
The Logging Road Into The Lodge Was A Difficult Drive
For starters, the complete 70km into the lodge was via an unsealed road, with the first 50km being shared with a few psychotic logging truck drivers, before you enter the conservation area proper. Maneuvering around the loaded logging rigs on dusty winding roads required a fair amount of concentration, and a little luck.
On top of this, we had no idea where we were actually going. There were no signs to the lodge (due to all the guests being shuttled in), and there were several logging roads darting off in every direction imaginable.
Then to top it all off, we were racing the clock. It was already late afternoon and the sun was quickly falling below the surrounding foliage. Locating the lodge in the dark would have been all but impossible, so I had the foot down, so to speak.
As with most people, we’ve seen documentaries on the aggressive logging and deforestation of the worlds endangered forests, but we were both quite shocked to see the sheer size of the trees that were being felled.
As you can see by the images in this post, the trees that are being felled are obviously quite old, and we were passed by truck, after truck, after truck on the way into the Danum Valley.
Seeing The Pygmy Elephants Was An Absolute Thrill
As we rounded a blind corner, only a few kilometers away from the lodge, I had to make an abrupt halt. Driving along the road at close to dusk was a perfect opportunity to spot the elusive Borneo Pygmy Elephants. So perfect in fact, that we nearly ran into seven of them.
There they were in front of us, three adult females, with three adolescents and a small baby leading the heard. The elephants were using the road as an easy access path, between sections of the forest, and we were extremely lucky to see them out in the open.
We let them slowly make their way along the road as we fumbled around for the camera. I thought we were going to be stuck behind them for ages, but they soon darted off into the thick forest, and out of sight.
I was blown away by what was before us. Not because we were witnessing elephants, as I’d seen these magnificent creatures many times on my previous trips to Africa, and other parts of Asia. Although Elephants are amazing creatures in their own right, I was memorized because the Borneo Pygmy Elephants are extremely rare.
The Future of The Borneo Pygmy Elephant
The rare Pygmy Elephants of Borneo have numbers around a mere 2000, and are listed by the IUCN (international union for conservation and nature) as an endangered species. Compare this to the African Elephant, who’s numbers fall in the hundreds of thousands.
With numbers like these, the future of Borneo Pygmy Elephant is still quite grim. Like most endangered species, the blame lies with human habitation, and also a thirst for exotic timbers. Although area’s of protected forest such as the Danum Valley Conservation Area, and the Maliau Basin, are helping the plight of these magnificent creatures. The logging we witnessed on the way into the protected area was quite aggressive. All you have to do is look at the photo’s of the logs aboard the trucks in this post to see that even the monster tree’s are given no mercy.
- Borneo Rain Forest Lodge can be found here.
- More information on the Borneo Elephant can be found here.
- For more information on the deforestation of Borneo click here.
Your Thoughts and Comments?
Have you witnessed wildlife in an unsuspecting way such as this? What about the logging of the precious hard woods of Malaysia, and elsewhere on the planet. Have you been to such area that is being destroyed at such an alarming rate?