A pygmy elephant fatally gored an Australian tourist in a remote Malaysian wildlife reserve on Borneo, an official said yesterday.
Jenna O’Grady Donley died of injuries from the attack on Wednesday at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve — the first known fatal incident of its kind in Malaysia’s eastern Sabah state, state wildlife department director Laurentius Ambu said.
The wild male elephant had been roaming alone around a mud volcano when Donley, a friend and their Malaysian guide saw it while trekking near their resort, Ambu said.
Donley, 25, a veterinarian, is believed to have gone within 10m of the animal, which might have charged at her because it was alarmed by the unfamiliar humans, Ambu said.
Rangers have not seen the elephant, but plan to drive it back into the forest, Ambu said.
Pygmy elephants, unique to Borneo, are a distinct subspecies of mainland Asian elephants. They are considered endangered, with about 2,000 left in Sabah state.
Adult pygmies stand up to 2.5m tall — 30cm to 60cm shorter than other Asian elephants. They are more rotund and have smaller, babyish faces with longer tails that reach almost to the ground. They are also less aggressive than their Asian counterparts.
The elephant that attacked Donley is believed to be a near-adult about 2m tall.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the victim was from New South Wales. An embassy official was to arrive in Borneo yesterday to provide consular assistance, the department said.
The Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur did not immediately respond to questions about its plans.
Elephant attacks occur occasionally in Sabah, usually if the animals are disturbed, Ambu said, adding that it was the first incident of its kind at the Tabin reserve.
He said people should remain at least 50m away from wild elephants. Elephants in the wildlife reserve are currently in a migration season, traveling to different locations in search of food.