KOTA KINABALU - Orphaned baby Borneo pygmy elephant Kejora or also known as Joe, who was rescued from a forest reserve in Sabah's east coast more than a year ago, loves playing and rolling in the mud.
His caretakers are happy he is getting stronger and more independent by the day.
The sole survivor of a mass poisoning that killed a herd of 14 elephants including his mother, Joe was barely four months old when he was found at the Gunung Rara forest reserve, about 140km from Tawau, on Jan 25 last year.
Joe was initially scared but grew attached to one ranger known as Augustine and would only eat and drink when the man brought him food.
However, Sabah Wildlife Department Rescue Unit veterinarian Dr Diana Ramirez said Joe had outgrown all that and was now a playful male.
"He is also able to eat and drink on his own now, though he still loves Augustine and will stay close to the ranger whenever he is around," she said.
Joe drinks around 40 litres of milk per day and eats an average 25kg of solid food daily.
Dr Ramirez said the two-year-old jumbo had grown from weighing less than 100kg to almost 450kg, and loved playing in the mud and spending time with two other rescued calves Bikang and Mala.
"We supply different types of toys and enrichment for him (Joe) but he has more fun in the mud if he is not with the two other calves," she said.
Bikang is a four-year-old male rescued from Lahad Datu early last year, while Mala is a two-year-old female rescued from Kinabatangan last August.
Joe and the other elephants are being fully monitored at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. He is expected to live the next 10 years or his whole life as a permanent resident of the zoo, as he is now used to being around humans and out of the wild.
The story of Joe gained international attention after he was photographed nuzzling his lifeless mother following the mass poisoning.