WATCHING two trained Asian elephants calming a wild elephant caught Kampung Luat, Lenggong is a sight that is truly remarkable.
Abut and Rambai, from the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre managed by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) proved to be the show stealers during a rescue and transfer operation in the village, last week.
Both the female Asian elephants calmed the wild elephant during the transfer process and even allowed villagers and reporters to take pictures with them before and after the operation.
At one point, the wild elephant tried to break loose when one of the workers sprayed something on its leg and it moved its trunk towards the worker.
The worker managed to move away in time while one of the trained elephants calmed it down.
Elephant Unit Chief Nasharuddin Othman said 16-year-old Abut and 38-year-old Rambai were rescued from the Malaysian wilds in, Kampung Gambut, Johor, and Machang, Kelantan, respectively and are very active in elephant rescue operations.
Abut has participated in 15 rescue missions while Rambai is much more experienced, having rescued 30 elephants
“When we started our project, we got elephants from India and Thailand. All those elephants retired due to old age so we used rescued local elephants for this work,” he tells MetroPerak.
DWNP established the centre in 1989 and it is the base for the Elephant Unit, which began the elephant translocation programme in 1974.
The only one of its kind in Malaysia, the team is dedicated to locating, subduing and then transferring wild elephants from areas where their habitats are affected by development.
These elephants are then relocated to safer habitats like Taman Negara National Park and Royal Belum State Park.
Over the past 30 years, the team has helped to resolve human-elephants conflicts by relocating more than 700 wild elephants.
“Now we have at least six trained elephants for this purpose. These six are always ready.
“We will rotate them for operations. Most of time, we go long distances, so we have to rotate these elephants,” said Nasharuddin
He said they have four more elephants that are undergoing training and he hopes they will be prepared to join the six for future rescue missions.
“Sometimes, we train these elephants for this purpose, but when the time comes, they are not ready to do the job.
“To be able to work in such conditions, we have to really control the elephants. It is not easy, sometimes you have to be quick and conversely also slow and you have to persuade them to tame the wild elephants.
“During operation, we do not want any danger. Normally, Each of these elephants will be taken care of by two rangers.”
Nasharuddin said the centre has 70 rangers and 26 elephants that were rescued after losing their habitats to development.
Folks in Kampung Luat breathed a sigh of relief last Thursday after the DWNP caught two wild elephants that had been roaming near their village for almost a week.
Twenty-five people from the National Elephant Conservation Centre and the DWNP’s Elephant Transportation Unit caught the two male Asian elephants on Tuesday.
The elephants are believed to have been stranded after being left behind by their herd.
One of them was transferred to the Royal Belum State Park on Thursday while the other was sent on Saturday.
State DWNP Director Rozaidan Md Yasin, who monitored the whole process led by Mohd Rizal Paimin, a ranger from the Elephant Transportation Unit, said the elephants – both about 15 years old – were from the Piah Forest Reserve.
“There are 12 elephants in the forest reserve. These two were stranded,” he said.
Kampung Luat Village Chief Ahmad Bakri Ariffin, 52, said the people in the village could not go to their rubber and palm oil plantations, as they were afraid the wild elephants would attack them.
“Some of the villagers would come across the wild elephants in their farms but the two did not attack them.
“On Jan 18, we reported to DWNP and on Jan 19, they came down to monitor the whereabouts of the elephants and they caught them two days ago,” he said.
Speculating on how the wild elephants got stranded, he said: “Piah Forest Reserve is 5km from our village. Some elephants will get lost because they can’t catch up with their group.”
One of the villagers, Mohd Taharin Mat Hashim, 56, recalled how on midnight of Jan 17, he heard some noise in his rubber plantation and knew it was elephants.
“They were behind my house. I told my family not to come out from the house.
“We could not see them at night but the noise was obvious.
“In the morning when we saw elephant faeces in my plantation and behind my house, I immediately alerted our village chief,” he said, adding that parts of his plantation were damaged by the wild elephants.
According to World Wildlife Foundation, the increasing human population in Asia has affected the elephant’s dense, but diminishing forest habitat.
The DWNP said there are only 1,200 to 1,500 elephants left in Malaysia and they are considered an endangered species.