MM JUL 17: Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary
A beautiful sunrise shine upon us as we depart from KL to Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary and National Elephant Conservation Center (NECC) with 44 excited participants. The NECC located in Kuala Gandah houses 26 elephants rescued from all around Peninsular Malaysia. The elephants in the sanctuary are usually permanent resident as they suffer from injuries or are left behind by their groups in the forest that may have affected their abilities to survive in the wild. The NECC started out as an elephant unit team for the relocating animals that are in the intended flood area for dams.
An hour later on the road and off the highway, we found ourselves in some very narrow and winding roads passing by a couple villages and an eco-homestay, we arrived at the Sanctuary at the very end of the road. At first glance, the facility looks just like another tourist attraction but once we walked into the lobby, we were greeted by welcoming staffs from the registration counter and a big mural featuring elephants. As a Raleigh tradition, we started off the tour with an energizer to warm up everyone after a bumpy ride. 3 guides were assigned to us and we were brought to a video room for a small but interesting talk by Ange and Ning from the Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME).
MEME is a research group that was established in 2012 to study the ecology of elephants in Peninsular Malaysia. They started out as a research project looking into the efficacy of elephant translocation that has been ongoing since the 1970s. For those that don’t know what is a translocation, it is a process of moving an elephant from their usual habitat to a better safer environment. But studying elephants can be dangerous in the forest, so MEME do this by fixing GPS collars onto elephants during translocation and after the elephants are released back into the wild with less human interactions such as plantations. MEME researchers collect data on the elephants’ movement. Ange and Ning taught us a lot of interesting facts about elephants in general. Did you know that almost half of the elephant habitat has been lost to development and deforestation in the past 40 years just here in the Peninsular? Our gentle giant friends especially in Asia is largely threaten by the two reasons mentioned just now besides poaching for ivory.
We discover that the facility was rather large once we got the chance to walk around and the NECC was very generous to let us work at a highly restricted elephant pent that are usually off limits to even researchers. We were offered the chance to clean the elephant pent with elephants in them! Fun fact, an average adult elephant defecates up to 150kg a day. A lot of brushing, scrubbing and hard work later, the pent is squeaky clean and as a reward, the staff decided to let us feed the elephants up close in the pent with freshly cut watermelons. The staffs later guided us to a gallery where they showed us the stories of the many elephants they have been translocated and also the background of all the elephants in the sanctuary. The gallery also features many tools and equipment used to help translocate elephants in the past. This gallery is open to guided tours only. Soon, hunger strike and we head to the cafeteria to enjoy our lunch with watermelon for desserts of course!
With our energy recharged, we were brought to the video room once again for a screening of a short documentary shot in 1996 with the National Geographic team about the translocation of Lisa the elephant and 2 of her family member to the Taman Negara National Park. It was a real insight to how tremendously painstaking it is to translocate an elephant. Due to the river level being too high, we were unable to join the elephants for a shower in the river but were fortunate enough to see them bathing happily with their caretaker in the river. The highlight of the day was a skit done by the elephants there. The elephants along with their caretakers demonstrated to the audience in the auditorium how a translocation happens. Tired after all the activities, we then head back to KL and thus ended our visit.
Elephants in Peninsular Malaysia are currently listed as a critically endangered species and are often over looked when compared to other species such as the Malayan tiger. Not only elephants, many other wildlife are also threaten by human activities and our disregard for nature. If you ever came across a wildlife crime, call this 24HR hotline, 019 356 4194 to report the issue.
Our monthly meet would not be successful without the amazing work done by the NECC, MEME and the participation of our wonderful guests, thank you all and see you in our next monthly meet!
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Written by Yong Jun Jie
Eddited by Hii Ning
Photos by Marble Tan