Tasik Kenyir

Little Gajah Ali's Story

Note: this is a fictional story based on a depiction of a 5 year old elephant's life in the jungles of Kenyir Lake.

I live with my family at Tasik Kenyir in a state the humans call Terengganu. Tasik Kenyir (Kenyir Lake) is very, very big! (38,000hectares of lake and surroundings, almost twice the size of Singapore). My Mum tells me that I have yet to visit the other end of the lake closer to the edge of a beautiful jungle where large trees with delicious wild fruits and shoots grow in seasons. I was told that this is where the humans have taken a few of the others. Mum says that these humans sent the others there because they had been trapped in human areas and were a nuisance to the villagers. (Wild Elephant Translocation Projects). I hope they have found their new home much more comfortable than the previous one. Perhaps my family will one day take me to this jungle (Taman Negara, National Park) where I can taste the sweetness of the young shoots and wild fruits.

Nenek (= grandma) Gajah tells me lots of stories about the days when the lake did not exist. Nenek Gajah is old. Ancient in fact! but she has many wild and exciting stories about the old days many moons ago when she was a mere lass. She tells of a time when there were no funny sounds of those human tools I hear now. The humans used to cut trees down with sticks that had teeth (saws) and buffaloes were used to drag the felled trees out of the jungle. The land where water now flows was rich with trees, juicy shoots and leaves for the entire family to feed on. Some trees were so big that could shade our entire family from the sweltering heat of the sun. For large jungle inhabitants like us we prefer the shelter of the thick foliage where it is cooler and where we can hide from our enemies. And do you know how we trick our enemies? By standing extremely still behind thickets and trees; and we can blend right in with the surroundings. Humans on noisy floating logs (speedboats) whiz by, not noticing our existence. It is a fun game my sisters and I play but mother says that this game is vital for our survival and that we shouldn't take it just for laughs. I wonder what she means?

Sometimes peering out from under our cover, we see humans on the lake fishing. There are many species of fish in the lake and during the rainy seasons, they play and frolic in the smaller tributaries. It is common to hear them splashing around, breaking the jungle's silence. I even see them leaping above water. The humans come to the lake to fish for them (Species like sebarau, kelah, toman, lampang and baum) and take them home to show off their catch to friends and families. Then they have a big feast to celebrate.

When the humans came to build a big dam before I was born, they came to take away the trees from the valleys and the low lands. Nenek remembers those days very well (1978 - 1985). There was much activity in Kenyir. The big tree eating animals (tractors) were swarming around looking for big juicy trees to eat. Then one day, after the dam was completed, the big rains came. It rained for days and nights and flooded the whole valley! Many of the tree-eating animals (tractors) were trapped in the flood and they disappeared into the depths of the lake. Nenek believes that the humans had underestimated the forces of nature. They estimated that the water would only fill up over a time of 5 years but within a year, the lowlands and valleys were already submerged and in the deepest parts of the lake, it drops to about 151m(500feet) deep.

The water rose and isolated many peaks, which we now see as islets. Many of our jungle friends were marooned on these islets and others were washed away with the great flood. It is lucky for us that we can swim but those who couldn't, drowned. I suppose, we too underestimated the power of nature. Nenek says that it was like the whole world had turned topsy-turvy. From the island looking into the water, she saw an entire forest of trees submerged in their watery grave. But the tides have changed at Tasik Kenyir, there is peace once again and life is good for us. Although many of the big fruit trees and the sturdy trees which we use to scrub our backs against have gone, we are still able to sustain ourselves in the jungles surrounding the lake. The water is clear and clean.

There are many waterfalls (14 waterfalls and rapids) and many more little tributaries (15 in total) where we can clean ourselves and quench our thirst after a long day foraging for leaves and shoots. My friend, 'Belang' the Tapir tells me that just behind the hills, the humans are back with their tree-eating animals (tractors). This was where my friends and I used to play, down in the valley. There were many banana trees there, which was a treat for us. We love the succulent flesh of the banana trunks. Just the thought of it makes me drool. I guess, we cannot visit the place anymore for Mum would be livid if she found out that we ventured too close to human camps. We aren't very welcomed there you know. The humans are also making a wide track along one part of the trail that my family used to follow not too long ago. Mother calls it a road (the Kuala Kangsar - Kuala Berang Highway). Now, there is much activity on the edges of the lake where this road is built and they have some way to go before it is completed. We no longer use our old trail for it is not safe for us to cross the road.