Last weekend we visited the National Elephant Conservation Centre in Kuala Gandah, Pahang, a couple of hours drive from KL. Also known as the Elephant Orphanage Sanctuary, the centre is dedicated to the protection and translocation of wild elephants whose natural habitat is under threat from human encroachment, development and cultivation. Wild elephants sometimes run amok in plantations, causing damage and posing a danger to humans and themselves. In these cases the centre will be asked to tranquilize and remove the elephants. This is no easy task and can be hazardous work. The elephants. after spending some time at the centre, are relocated and released in more suitable habitats such as the wilds of Taman Negara and other national parks or forest reserves in Malaysia. Over 600 wild elephants have been relocated over the years.
The place was more crowded than I expected. There were probably a couple of hundred visitors – a mixture of Malaysians and foreign tourists. There is no entry charge but donations are more or less obligatory. That’s clever marketing as most people donate more than they would have spent on entry tickets. It is OK to be generous. With over 20 elephants residing at the centre, each consuming 50–100 kilos of food per day, it costs a lot to keep the place going. The centre is supported by the Malaysian Government (Department of Wildlife and National Parks) but extra funding is always welcome to upgrade facilities.
Visitors get to help out with the feeding. Papaya chunks and cucumbers were on the menu that day.
This young female elephant had lost a foot. Someone said it was caused by a tiger attack.
The first 150 visitors per day can take a short bare-back elephant ride and/or give the elephants a scrub in the river. Yes, it’s a bit touristy but it helps draw in the visitors and the elephants certainly seem to enjoy the bath.
When elephants and man clash it is rarely a good outcome for the elephant. At least at this sanctuary you can tell from the smiling and caring faces of the rangers that the elephants are in good hands.
A short distance from the centre is a mini-zoo called Deerland. Seeing as we had travelled all this way we thought we would take a look.
They had some of the tamest deer that you could ever come across which were happy to be petted and fed by hand.
This handsome chap was fortunately behind bars.
A number of Bengal cats were also kept in an enclosure. They looked like regular cats to me but perhaps this ‘Toyger’ needs to be another generation removed from its wild ancestor before it becomes a cuddly pet.
The zoo staff were happy to let you wrap a python round your neck if you felt so inclined.
They also allowed us to come alarmingly close to this Malaysian sun bear. He might be cute but he’s no teddy bear.