Yesterday we went to an elephant reserve where they keep domesticated elephants. It was so cool. We went with the other Fulbrighters here and the staff from the Malaysian American Commission on Educational Exchange. The place was about two hours from KL, most of it on a new, really nice highway. It was kind of in the middle of nowhere, though, so the last few miles were on a rough, bumpy road that wasn’t really meant for buses like we were in.
There are about 1500 wild elephants remaining in peninsular Malaysia, but they are rapidly losing their habitat as people clear jungle to make rubber plantations. Asian elephants are a protected species now, meaning that when the wild animals wander onto plantations and destroy vast tracts of them they can no longer be shot on sight, which is a very good thing. However, this leads to the problem of trying to relocate the elephants to natural parks where they can roam undisturbed. There’s a team trained to do this, and they have to come in and sedate the poor animals to try and move them safely. As the informational video we saw said, moving a partially sedated elephant is not an easy thing to do. However, as elephants are highly social animals, they can be comforted by the presence of other elephants. That’s where the trained ones come in. They bring in a few of the trained elephants who bond with the scared, woozy, wild animal and help to soothe it so that it can be moved with a little less trauma. This is a really neat idea, but it is still very stressful on the animals being relocated.
When the domesticated animals aren’t at work, they hang out at this place where people can come visit, feed, and ride on them. They had one gigantic animal, one pretty big one, and three little ones. We got to feed them fruit and veggies and pet them which was amazing. Elephants always look big in zoos, but when you are standing right next to one which is at least 9 feet tall, they really are even more impressive. Even the little ones were almost as tall as a person. Their trunks are also unbelievably strong and dextrious, and it was really fun having them grab bananas and pieces of melon from us. After feeding time they let people ride on them, big people on the big elephant and little people on a little elephant. Then everyone got in the water and got to scrub at them with coarse brushes, which they seem to really like. One of the funniest things that happened was that the big one farted a few times on its way out of the water. It was very loud and very smelly. Yes, we are almost 26 years old, but it was just too funny.
And what would a trip like this be without pictures? We took a whole lot, so check them out for some pachyderm fun.