Miracle of Survival: Orphaned Pygmy Elephant Finds Surrogate Mom After Heartbreaking Loss

In a heartrending tale of survival, a three-month-old pygmy elephant named Joe captured the world’s attention when he was found nuzzling his lifeless mother, who had fallen victim to a mysterious poisoning in Malaysia’s tropical rainforest. The distressing scene moved wildlife officials to tears, and it was clear that Joe needed urgent help.

Fortunately, Joe was rescued and brought to a nature reserve under the care of Augustin David, a devoted 29-year-old keeper.

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Joe the baby pygmy elephant

With unwavering dedication, Augustin became Joe’s surrogate mother, providing round-the-clock care and feeding the infant elephant with a unique formula milk he loved. They developed an extraordinary bond resembling any loving parent and child.


Augustin’s days are filled with nurturing Joe, who enjoys playful moments around the Lok Kawi Zoo near Kota Kinabalu and dislikes bathtime. His love for attention is evident, often nudging or kicking Augustin to ensure he remains the center of care.

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Why wonโ€™t you wake up, mummy? Joe was visibly distressed as he nuzzled his lifeless mother in a desperate attempt to revive her

Despite the heartwarming progress, Joe’s journey to recovery is far from certain. Dr. Diana Ramirez, the vet overseeing Joe’s health, cautions that baby elephants are vulnerable to sudden health issues like colic, which can prove fatal.

The resilience displayed by Joe gives hope, but he needs to pass the critical six or seven-month mark to increase the chances of survival significantly.


The tragedy of Joe’s mother highlights a larger concern for the Borneo pygmy elephants. With approximately two-thirds of this endangered species found in Malaysia, the mysterious deaths of 14 adult elephants triggered investigations.

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Getting to know you: Little Joe and his keeper indulge in a bit of horseplay now that they have formed a remarkable bond

Experts suspect poisoning from toxic substances, potentially laid out to protect palm oil plantations near their habitat. The loss of these majestic creatures underscores the urgent need for safeguarding their natural environment.

As for Joe’s future, if he pulls through, he is likely to spend the rest of his life in the safety of the 280-acre park. While rescued elephants often face challenges adapting to the wild, Joe will find companionship among 16 other injured and orphaned elephants residing at the reserve.


This heartwarming tale of resilience and compassion is a poignant reminder of the need to protect and preserve these magnificent creatures for generations to come.

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Bath time: Joeโ€™s new keeper Augustin seems to be enjoying it, but the elephant isnโ€™t so keen. Augustin said of the elephant that he โ€˜has clear likes and dislikes
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ย Keepers have found a special formula of milk that caters to Joeโ€™s nutritional needs
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The keeper and the inmate have formed an unusually close relationship at the wildlife centre
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ย So far, Joe seems to be adapting fairly well to life among humans after his motherโ€™s death
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But it is too soon to say for sure that the fun-loving elephant will survive his ordeal
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The elephant stretches in his new home as Augustin looks on at his protegรฉ
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Surrogate mum: Like any parent, Augustin faces a grueling schedule that requires feeding Joe every two hours, all through the night, with a particular mix of formula milk that the infant has a taste for
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Mysterious spate of poisoning: Joeโ€™s mother is one of 14 known elephants to have died and investigations are still being carried out to discover what wiped them out and whether it was deliberate or accidental
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Popular: The orphaned elephant has been a hit with handlers at the wildlife center in Malaysia

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