Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
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18-Jul-2005

Contact: Sarah Janicke
sarah.janicke@wwfus.org
202-778-9685
World Wildlife Fund

Name that elephant!

WWF online contest seeks name for wild pygmy elephant in Borneo

Washington World Wildlife Fund today invited elephant lovers to help name a Borneo pygmy elephant that will be part of the first study ever conducted on the pint-sized pachyderms.

The nameless female elephant, along with five others, will be outfitted with high-tech collars this summer and tracked by satellite on the Asian island of Borneo, the only place in the world where pygmy elephants exist.

Anyone can suggest a name by going to www.worldwildlife.org/pygmy through Thursday, July 21. The top names will then be posted on the website for supporters to vote on starting Friday, July 22. The winning pick will be used to name an elephant that will be satellite-collared later this month on Malaysian Borneo. The elephants' movements through the Borneo jungle will be regularly posted online so the public can watch the research in progress.

"Each of the elephants to be collared as part of our research will be given a name and we thought it would be fun to enlist the public's help to name one," said Ginette Hemley, vice president for Species Conservation at WWF. "Pygmy elephants have never been studied before, so this research will contribute greatly to the scientific world's understanding of them."

"Compared to other elephants, Borneo's pygmy elephants are small, baby-faced and gentle-natured," she added. "Even the adults look like young elephants."

The elephants were only discovered to be a probable new subspecies in 2003, when WWF and Columbia University researchers conducted a DNA analysis that proved the pygmy elephants were genetically different from other Asian elephants. Before that, they were believed by many to be simply a remnant herd of domesticated elephants from mainland Asia left on the island years ago. There are estimated to be fewer than 1,500 of the elephants.

WWF and the Sabah (Malaysia) Wildlife Department began the project to collar the elephants last month and three elephants were collared in June. Their names are Roselis, Taliwas and Nancy. Elephants live in matriarchal societies and by collaring only female elephants, WWF will be able to collect data on a whole herd's movement for each elephant being tracked.

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Note to editors: For more information about the project, go to www.worldwildlife.org/borneo.