Elephants and seladangs (gaur), and other exotic animals have roamed the virgin tropical forests and jungles of Malaysia for countless decades.
Unfortunately, they are now classified as endangered animals due to man’s destruction of their natural habitats through indiscriminate development.
However, in Malaysia’s several forest reserves and wild-life parks, such as Taman Negara (National Park), Endau-Rompin State Park and Kenong Rimba National Park, these elephants and seladangs roam freely, protected under the law from hunters and poachers.
These forest reserves and parks are the favorite haunts for adventurers and wild-life enthusiasts, both Malaysians and foreigners, amazed and imbued with the 130 million years old untouched flora and fauna there.
Besides the three wild-life parks mentioned above, the state of Pahang also has forest reserves and sanctuaries where wild-life and endangered animals are protected and sufficiently nurtured before releasing them back to the wild.
These sanctuaries also provide a place for increasing the population of the endangered animals where they can breed without hindrance. An increase in their numbers will ensure that their species would not dwindle and be lost in the face of this earth.
They must be saved and protected for posterity.
The Kuala Krau Wildlife Reserve in the Malaysian state of Pahang, was first gazetted in 1923. It is located in central-west Pahang and straddles across the inland towns of Raub, Jerantut and Temerloh.
The Reserve spreads over 53,000 hectares and within this vast reserve of pristine tropical rainforest, you will find a broad variety of wildlife, including many endangered species.
You will find that a journey into the heart of Kuala Krau Wildlife Reserve is like a journey back in time to the country’s ancient natural heritage containing some of nature’s best kept wonders.
Untouched species of flora and fauna, millions of years old, grow here in abundance, protected against the acceleration and advance of modern development.
Here, as in most of the deep hinterland and jungles of Pahang, you will also find the Senoi, one of the major tribes of the aboriginal people in Pahang. They have lived in perfect harmony with nature since the time of their ancestors, and no doubt, have extensive and intimate knowledge of the jungle and forests, and their inhabitants.
As part of initiatives to ensure that wildlife in the rainforests and jungles of Malaysia will be maintained and protected and will not be lost for the benefit of posterity, you will find within this Wildlife Reserve, conservation centers and sanctuaries for endangered wildlife, set up by the Malaysian government.
These sanctuaries are also aimed at promoting awareness of the importance of conservation among the public, especially our children, the future of mankind.
Here, you will find:
So, follow me now to the Conservation Centers and Sanctuaries in the delightful state of Pahang.
They were set up to preserve wildlife in the country so that future generations can still see, know and perhaps touch them...
Located in Kuala Gandah, near Lanchang, Pahang and about 40 km from Bentong, Pahang, this centre was established in 1989 and is dedicated to rescuing and protecting Malaysia’s elephants.
Elephants in Malaysia are strictly protected under the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972 and listed as one of the endangered species.
This Elephant Center is the base for the only Elephant Capture and Translocation Unit in Malaysia. It provides protection and care to elephants especially those displaced by development elsewhere in Malaysia.
Other than the resettlement and translocation of elephants to protected reserves and parks which are similar to their natural habitat, the sanctuary’s main objective is to promote public awareness and knowledge of the elephants’ plight, and to support research into elephant translocation and conservation in the country.
And as a way to promote awareness to the public, the Center does not charge any entrance fees.
Instead the maintenance and upkeep costs of the place are provided by the Malaysian Government through annual grants. Visitors to the Center and sponsors, however, are also encouraged to donate to help in the upkeep of the place.
COME, LET'S GET FRIENDLY WITH THE ELEPHANTS...
Feed and Ride on the Friendly Elephants as a Prelude to the finale…( you will know later!)
To foster better understanding of elephants, visitors to this Center can take a very close look at the friendly jumbos during their feeding times. It is said that an elephant needs about 220kg of food daily, comprising of plants and vegetables.
But don’t just watch them being fed. You can also try and help the keepers feed the friendly elephants during feeding times. Their food comprise mostly of plants and vegetables – and naturally their most favorite food (I think) -- the sugar-canes.
( P.S. Elephants are herbivores - they eat only plant materials and no meat. So they won’t eat you!)
Then watch them enjoy munching and slowly swallowing the sugar-canes as you feed them. Observe their cute mouths as they chew their food. They’ll curl their trunks around you to show their appreciation!!
Didn’t have time to bathe? Then take a River Bath! (the grand finale!)
You can also watch the friendly jumbos having fun as they enjoy a muddy splash in the nearby river. They really enjoy splashing and spraying themselves, and spraying the water at their other elephant friends and their keepers, with their trunks, of course.
And, if you wish, you can arrange with the gamekeeper for a ride on the friendly jumbos. Don’t be afraid because the keeper will be at the helm (neck of the elephant) and guiding the elephant, while you hold him (the keeper, of course,) tight.
Then the friendly elephant will walk slowly to the muddy river for his bath, and in the middle of the river, rather unexpectedly, but with excellent timing, the elephant bends on one side, and brings you down into the river with him!!
Of course you’ll get wet, and get splashed and maybe sprayed by the playful elephants themselves! So, hold your breath when he swerves sideways and falls down suddenly...
But if you think the elephant will fall and crush on you, DON'T WORRY. The elephants are trained to do it properly. And you will definitely enjoy and remember this particular session -- a bath with an elephant. Perhaps this could be the most exciting and unforgettable experience with elephants in your entire life.
So, don’t forget to bring along additional dry clothes to change after that unique, adventurous bath!
On very rare occasions, the rangers from this center are also tasked with the responsibility to catch rogue elephants that terrorise remote villages in the country.
They use the trained elephants in this sanctuary to help catch and tame the wild ones. But the task of translocation of elephants is actually a very painstaking and dangerous process, which needs to be undertaken properly, requiring expert skills.
(P.S. "rogue" = natural aggressive behavior of bull elephants during mating season only)
However, we have to keep in mind that elephants by nature, are really peaceful animals and are highly intelligent. It is said that they can remember the pain inflicted to them by some humans (if you can call them so) and the humans (you can call this so) who were kind to them. That’s why stories of Tarzan, and similar stories of kindness to animals, end happily when the elephants repay the deeds of those who were kind to them.
Actually it is the unplanned and irresponsible land development schemes by humans who are mostly at fault for the elephants’ actions by encroaching the elephants’ usual territories.
This is because elephants do not have an efficient digestive system and they need to eat plenty of food (plants, barks and twigs). And when they have to search for food over a very vast area, inevitably they will chance upon plantations and smallholdings, that had been newly opened in the periphery of their usual territories.
Consequently the new plants and small trees planted by humans will be crushed and uprooted when they roam their forests in groups.
Upon capture, the displaced or rogue elephants are brought to this elephant sanctuary, and before releasing them for re-settlement to the safe and protected forest reserves and wild-life parks, they are provided with food and given proper medical treatment and veterinary care at this sanctuary.
And more importantly they are trained to live in the wild again. Once they are fit and able to cope on their own, they will be released into the wild. By thus releasing them to their natural habitat, it will also reduce the costs of maintaining the Center.
To date, in Malaysia, more than 500 wild Asian elephants have been moved from their plantation (human)–encroached habitats in various parts of the country, to the protected grounds of Taman Negara (in Pahang), Belum Forest Reserve (in Perak) and Endau-Rompin State Park (in Pahang and Johore).
Perhaps, if you want to, you can arrange with the Center to observe and watch the rangers feeding and caring the wild elephants meant for translocation, at a nearby forest.
The state of Pahang, with its vast forest and jungle areas comprising about 49 percent of its land area of 35,960 square kilometers, naturally harbor a great number of wild animals, including elephants.
In the history of Pahang, as also in the history of human civilization, elephants have long played a social and economic role in the society. They have been used not only as a beast of burden –- to help in human tasks, travels and transport of goods -- but unfortunately they were also made to serve as the main "armored tanks" during battles and warfare, like the horses of the western world.
The close relationship between man and elephants in Pahang is reflected in the logo (or emblem) of the state of Pahang which has a pair of tusks uplifting a spear and a coffee leaf. It signifies the abundant existence of elephants in the state and the importance of its economic role in the distant past.
Elephants are either African or Asian elephants. (There is now a possible third specie differentiating the forest and the grassland (savannah) elephants of Africa).
The Malaysian elephant is a sub-specie of the Asian elephant, which is made up of the Indian, Ceylon, and Sumatran, etc. varieties.
The Asian elephants have smaller ears since they live in comparatively cooler climates than African elephants, and generally while all African elephants have tusks, only the male (not all males, though) of the Asian elephants grow them. And the Asian elephants have only one finger-like projection at the entrance of the trunk, whereas the African elephants have two "fingers".
There is also a further sub-specie of cute-looking pygmy elephants found rather recently in the state of Sabah, Malaysia.
OK, LET’S NOW GO TO ANOTHER DELIGHTFUL AND UNIQUE CONSERVATION CENTER...
This 50–hectare captive-breeding center located at South Jenderak, Pahang (about 130 km from Kuantan) is sanctuary to the endangered seladang or gaur. It was opened in 1982 and provides a sanctuary for the propagation of the seladang to curb its dwindling population in the wild.
The seladang or the gaur (bos gaurus), also called wild cattle, is the second largest land mammal in Malaysia after the elephant, and has lived and happily survived the forests of Peninsular Malaysia for countless decades. They are perhaps similar to the bisons of Northern America, living in the wild (but definitely happy also with their lifestyle!).
A normal Malaysian seladang is big, and is said to be bigger than bisons. This animal is said to be one of the wildest animals in the animal kingdom with phenomenal brute strength.
I remember my father used to tell stories of the long struggle to catch any one of them. The seladang will fight determinedly and not cease or give up until they are really tired.
That is why the seladang is used as a symbol of brute strength by the Malays.
In 1889, a young seladang bull was sent from Pahang to the then British Governor of the Straits Settlement (Sir Cecil Clementi Smith), who later presented it to the Zoological Gardens, in London.
For the record, this young bull was the first living specimen of the bos gaurus ever received in Europe.
Let's go on and see what's inside this Sanctuary...
There are about 30 to 35 male and female seladangs in 5 large open pens fenced by iron bars and rods inside this Sanctuary.
These seladangs, like the elephants, are also given pet names, according to their sex of course, such as Mawar, Puja, Noni, Ciku, Michael, Mat, etc. There are some tame ones that are friendly and not afraid of visitors.
So enjoy this rare and thrilling opportunity to stand close to the wild seladangs, but then again, not too close, please...
They could suddenly turn offensive by certain smells or colors you use, and might unexpectedly try to charge at you. So while you watch them, do be careful and alert, and not to stand too near the wild ones.
It’s not that they will harm you, but because the fencing is made of iron/steel bars, they just might hurt themselves. We must be kind to animals.
Anyway, a simple tip given by the keepers to soften the rage of the seladangs or make them back away, is by picking a tree branch or small stones and gesturing or pretending to hit them. (Just gesture please, don’t hurt them.) They will back off.
Perhaps this instinctive action was stuck in their genes maybe due to some bitter experience way back during their early existence when the cave men must have beaten them with the dead branches or threw stones at them.
(This instinct to back off is similar to the behavior of dogs that will back off when we make a gesture of picking up a stone from the ground.)
As a research center, this Seladang Sanctuary is sometimes visited by local University students who use this place to study and record the behavior and lives of the seladang. Foreign researchers also make frequent visits to this place for their research work.
And besides being a breeding and conservation center for the seladang, this center also runs a captive breeding program for sambar deer and there is also a primate research center which conducts research on other wildlife as well.
A SHORT SIDE-NOTE
My alma mater, Victoria Institution of Kuala Lumpur, one of the premier schools in Malaysia, has the head of a seladang as the school's crest and part of the badge.
In fact, the school’s news magazine is called "The Seladang", taking after the positive attributes of the animal, a natural fighter with natural brute strength.
Animals are part of the world that we live in. What would the world be like if there are no animals? Repeat your answer please.
So, let them live, preserve them for posterity, do not take away their natural habitats and territories.
Animal poachers have nothing to do, but create destruction to the lives of humans, by taking away those friends of humans nature has freely given.
So, don’t be a poacher, and report poachers of animals, especially the endangered animals, to the authorities. We want the animals to live with us as part of our lives.
Otherwise, life is not that worth living.
Well, I do hope you’ve enjoyed the trips to the Elephant and Seladang (gaur) sanctuaries in the state of Pahang, Malaysia.
Please also help the authorities by donating or assisting in other ways to preserve and conserve animals that are endangered in your country.
If you want to be enlightened on elephants, then visit this wonderful website, www.elephants.com.
For more delights in the state of Pahang, just click to other destinations in this website.
Browse here for the list of hotels, accommodation and lodging in the main towns of Pahang.
And as always, from me,
*** SELAMAT DATANG***