Kuala Gandah Elephant Centre - Pahang Malaysia


In recent years, Kuala Gandah Elephant Centre has become a very popular destination for tourists and especially so during Weekends and School/Public Holidays. There have been numerous complaints from our guests on the lack of crowd control at the centre and the lack of handicap friendly facilities available there. We would like to advise you to visit the centre on any other time other than Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays and school/public holidays to avoid disappointment. On Fridays, there is a long lunch break for friday prayers and the centre will only be open from 2.30pm onwards.

Companyyyy march! Hup two, three, four..

little orphaned elephants

The little ones sneaking away from their keeper for a bit of fun at the sand pit

Those of us who are familiar with 'Jungle Book'; Walt Disneys' animated movie adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's classic always remember 'Hathi', the leader of the elephant troop. Strong, demanding and not so much the stereotypical 'elephant that-never-forgets', Hathi is one of the more endearing characters. An old pompous bull, set in his ways, regimented, a retired member of the British battalion - ready to uphold chivalry and honour, and not forgetting that behind every great bull there is a great cow - Hathi epitomises the loveable nature of these gentle creatures. They are intelligent, individualistic, are highly disciplined and they adhere to the social rules and customs within the group. The adults are fiercely protective of their young and if threatened, they form a circle round their young to protect them from any impending danger, sacrificing themselves if need be. In reality, the leader of a herd of elephant is not a male but rather a dominant female (a cow) known as the 'Matriach'. The Matriach is normally the largest female in the herd and she leads her family group of between 15 to 30 individuals consisting mainly of female adults and their young and several young male elephants. We find that adult males generally live a solitary life. However, it is not uncommon to find them living in herds especially during mating seasons.

This leads to a long forgotten story of dedication and strong social bonding amongst elephants.There once was a large bull that lived in the jungles of Teluk Anson (Teluk Intan) with a large group of resident elephants. One day the herd went for a stroll to the edge of the jungle, close to the old Port Weld - Taiping railway line. This was not an exceptionally busy railway line and a slow locomotive ran the track only once daily, transporting goods and people to and from the port. Then one fateful day as the elephants ambled across the tracks as they probably had done a million times over for they are creatures of habit, they had failed to notice the goods train chugging down the tracks until the very last moment. In a desperate attempt to save the family, the bull rushed to the tracks and stood his ground, between the oncoming train and the herd.

courtesy of arkib negara malaysia. train derailed by elephant

The train rammed right into the elephant and the impact toppled the train. He had saved the herd but alas! sacrificed his life in the process. The British were so touched by the story (one of many versions, I might add!) of the elephant's sacrifice that they erected a monument where he lay as a remembrance to her and her family. The forgotten plaque still stands by the side of the now abandoned track . Now, flyways and highways divert traffic away from old abandoned railway line. Vegetable plots line the land where the plaque stands - the only reminder of heroism beyond imagination.

The elephant's skull was transported to Kuala Lumpur and can now be seen at the National Museum (Muzium Negara). A little showcase of a great deed hidden in the archives of oblivion. The elephant's unconditional love for one another and social dedication to each member of the group is truly admirable; basic building blocks for healthy communal living for many to emulate.

Ancestors of the elephant

an illustration of the asian elephant

The Asian elephant (elephas maximus) is found throughout tropical rainforests stretching from Indochina which includes Vietnam and Cambodia, into Burma(now called Myanmar) down Thailand trickling into Malaysia and Indonesia. These gigantic animals can be traced through a lineage dating as far back as 45 to 55million years ago during the Eocene Period. Archaeological evidences indicates that the early ancestors of these giants were in fact, tiny 1 metre tall creatures with no resemblance to the modern elephants we see today. They didn't even have a trunk to start with! But through millions of years of evolution, some 150 different species were produced; some dying off and others evolving into more resilient species. In our modern world, only 2 species are found namely the African elephant and the Asian or Indian elephant. Today the closest relative of the elephant is the manatee and dugong and the closest land relative is the hyrax.

The working elephants

In the early days of trade, elephants were used widely as a form of transportation and a number were trained for the use in royal households especially for royal processions to pull the royal coaches. During the reign of the Melaka sultanate in the early 15th century right through to the Portuguese rule of Melaka, trained elephants were often supplied to the royal families in India and many merchants prospered through this little known trade. Elephants and their mahouts were loaded onto ships sailing for months in the open seas to the shores of India. In the later years, other forms of transportation replaced the use of elephants in Malaysia, elephants were no longer required and were left to roam the jungles. Therefore in modern day Malaysia, unlike in Thailand and Myanmar, trained elephants are nonexistent. The remaining Asian elephant population in Malaysia are wild. Hence, at the Kuala Gandah Elephant centre, the trained adult elephants are imported from Myanmar and a few are scheduled to arrive from the Thailand to assist the rangers in their translocation programme of wild elephants.

At the centre

feeding the elephant

We'd heard about the elephant centre from a few expatriate friends a couple of years ago. Thinking it was a long way from KL, we never got round to visiting the place. So it came as a pleasant surprise that the drive took only an hour from the gombak toll to the centre . And it was a day well spent indeed! We arrived at the sanctuary at 1.45pm. One of the keepers we met at the entrance informed us that a video presentation was scheduled for 2.00pm and that the tour round the grounds would be conducted after the show. At 2.00pm sharp(!!), we were shown into a little audio-visual theatre that reminded us of those familiar little lecture rooms. Chairs with small removable tables attached to one arm, cluttered the room. As the air-conditioning cooled our heated brow, the lights were dimmed and we settled in for a 25min presentation of 'The plight of the homeless elephant'.

This video presentation gave us a better understanding of the work conducted at the centre, the duty of the elephants and the highly dangerous job of the rangers when they're out in the field conducting wild elephants translocation projects. Male elephants have a territorial homerange of about 400+ km² and females of about 300+ km². Contrary to what we think of the tropical rainforest as rich and with abundance of food for the wildlife, it is in fact the opposite. Full-grown elephants eat as much as 225kg of food everyday and sometimes they have to travel far just to find enough to satisfy their hunger. When they have such a wide home range (and they can cover a lot of ground in a day), the elephants are bound to come into contact with humans. Then comes the human-elephant conflict.

As more of the jungle or forested areas are being converted into plantations and human settlements, the poor elephants are being squeezed out of their ancestral homes. Moreover, the elephants' keen sense of smell sometimes lead them into trouble. Elephants cannot resist the delicious roots of young palm trees. They sneak out into plantations at night to raid the nurseries; uprooting every tree in sight. There are other times when the wild elephants are entrapped in the middle of approaching development. In such situations, these frightened beasts have known to bulldoze acres of freshly planted crops. In many cases, the plantation owners - tired of having to foot the bill for the damage, calls the team to remove the elephants. As elephants are strictly protected under the Protection of Wildlife Act of 1972 under the endangered species listing, culling of elephants are prohibited. The rangers move in on the area, track them down, capture and translocate the elephants to other areas or larger tracts of jungle/forested areas so that they may roam in peace.

more on research done on the wild elephants in Malaysia, log onto:

http://www.wcsmalaysia.org

what to do at the centre...

On 14th May 2001, the 25-member team from the Kuala Gandah translocation team was called in to capture a young male of between 30 and 40 years old. He was believed to be a member of the herd of elephants who went on a rampage at a few villages in a northern state not long ago. The elephants steamrolled over a sizeable area of orchards and damaged a few houses along the way. The elephant, named 'Tok Nik' by the villagers, was captured and accompanied out of the wooded area by the sanctuary's trained elephants; 'Cek Mek' and 'Mek Bunga'. In doing so, the trained elephants provide the frightened elephant with a sense of security, so that he would be less inclined to retaliate to the treatment of chains on him.

Tok Nik was later released into the forest areas bordering the states of Kelantan and Perak.

The video presentation was a good start to our tour of the place. After the show, the keeper in charge of the day took us to an opening where the older elephants were waiting. This… is where the fun starts! We were introduced to Mek Bunga, a docile and obedient giant…and encouraged to take a ride on her round the compound. The thrill was that we were to be taken on a bareback ride! There were no harnesses, no elephant seats… all we had to do was to clamber onto the elephant's back and hold on for dear life to the Mahout (the elephant's keeper). The Mahout shouted out simple instructions to Mek Bunga and she slowly rose from her crouched position to her full standing height of 8 feet(2.5m). Asian elephants are generally smaller in size as compared with their cousins in Africa. They have smaller triangular, flapping ears, shorter faces with a dip on the top of the head. Only the males have tusks and adults can weigh up to 6tonnes (5,400kg) whereas the female weighs half of that. In general the adults average about 10feet (3m) tall but when you're sitting on an elephants back,10 feet feels a little too high for comfort!

Elephant rides have been suspended at the centre. Perhaps it really is for the better. In recent years, the crowds have been getting larger and larger. The job undertaken by the older elephants may be too stressful for them.

Clad in shorts, Robert had to contend with sitting on bare elephant skin- wiry hair scratching the tender undersides of his thighs! Almost oblivious to the extra burden weighing down on her, Mek Bunga sashayed up a path, which led to the elephant enclosure. The Mahout informed us that this fenced area was recently set up to allow the older elephants to roam. Most of the day the elephants are chained up for their safety. Space is a problem at the centre.

The ride only took 15 minutes but being able to be so close to the elephant, to observe her moves, to feel her breathing - her calmness, to touch her leathery skin, to be in complete harmony with her…that…was more than the thrill of the ride.

After the work of carrying us around, it was our turn to work. 'Twas time for a bath! Not us; although we didn't have a choice in the end anyway. We had been 'summoned' to pay for our thrills (as it were) and it was the elephants' turn to play. With a scrub in one hand and lots of guts…we made our way down to the river. The keepers were already there with the elephant. For those more equipped for the trip (i.e. they brought their swimsuits and towel), with wild abandonment, they jumped into the river. For others like us who came unprepared, after much teasing from the keepers, we went in too!

After half an hour of fun in the river, a loud 'blaaaaarrrrre' coming from the direction of the stables caught us by surprise. The keepers informed us that we had to leave the bathing session for another day. As for now, the young elephants were waiting impatiently for their afternoon tea and from the noisy calls, we could tell that they were already getting a little agitated having to wait. We found out that the one making all those rude noises was the youngest member of the family. There were four young elephants at the stable; Adillah, being the youngest is four years old. She was found on a plantation called Felda Adillah some years ago and transferred to Kuala Gandah. In her tender age, she has even gained quite a bit of fame having been casted in the movie 'Anna and the King'!

The keepers brought out a buffet of delicious fruits for the elephants. Of course Adillah had the very first serving and quite a bit after that! Trunks outstretched, eager for more of the succulent fruits that they have been denied the entire afternoon. The elephants chomped happily away on the fruits handed out to them. We were told that, if we really wanted to be in their good books we could always bring along little treats for them on our next trip. They're especially fond of apples, bananas and mangoes. The next time then.

The aged method of training an elephant is to tie each of the elephant's legs to posts set widely apart. The elephant is left in that straddled position for as long as it takes to break its wild spirit.

We have learnt so much from our day trip to the elephant sanctuary. It's a great place to visit especially for children where they can interact with these gentle giants and learn about them. There is so much to learn and in return perhaps they can teach us a thing or two about our lives too. The elephants here have a purpose - to educate the visitors and to help translocate wild elephants to a better place. The elephants at the sanctuary are in fact, representatives for their fellow elephants. With the work done at Kuala Gandah and the translocation programmes, the wild elephants have a fighting chance to survive and continue their legacy. There is still so much to do and so much that can be done. The responsibility for all wildlife is not just on the wildlife department and their rangers. It also comes from us - our care, our knowledge and our responsibility.

A little phrase from Voltaire's Candide, ' There is no effect without a cause,' replied Candide humbly. 'Everything is connected in a chain of necessity, and has all been arranged for the best.

Update on the elephant centre

little orphaned elephants are sent to the elephant centre for later translocation

The tragic death of the 3 younger elephants at Kuala Gandah centre when a tree crushed them during a freak storm in May 2001 is a great loss to the centre and to us. They are sorely missed by all. In September a new recruit to the centre was introduced to the visitors. Her name is little 'Mawar' . Having been orphaned recently, the 5 month old baby was transported from Kota Tinggi in Johore to the centre. A little hut has been built for her and hopefully in time, she may learn to fend for herself. Young elephants are completely dependent on their mothers. Mother and child are inseparable - the only time they ever separate is when the young is orphaned. It is very difficult for little Mawar to adjust to life at the centre for there is no foster mother to take responsibility for her. Her fate is uncertain at the moment. She is extremely attached to the keeper in charge of her but she definitely needs a full time 'mother' to teach her and to constantly comfort her through such trying times. She frets easily and little things frighten her. So if you do see her, please be gentle. Another little orphaned elephant called 'Sri' was brought to the centre 2 weeks after Mawar. She seems a little more at ease with her surroundings and loves her daily sand bath. The two young ones have a habit of grabbing visitors' hands and stuffing them into their mouths to suckle. But be careful not to allow them to do so. At their age, they have already developed the back molars and may unknowingly crush your finger or hand.

Sri was later sent to the A'Famosa safari park in Melaka.

More information about the centre

If you would like to know more about the elephants at Kuala Gandah Elephant Centre , the official wildlife department website is http://www.nre.gov.my/en-my/EcoPark/Pages/National...

For further information about the sanctuary, its purpose and its elephants you may contact 019 - 9321 576. For more on what's the status of conservation for elephants in Malaysia http://www.eleaid.com/country-profiles/elephants-m...

Deerland

sunbear at deerland being fed condensed milk which is unfortunately making them obese

This is a privately funded animal park right next to the Elephant Centre and is open everyday from 10.30am till 5.30pm . Closed on Fridays. The owner's intention was to increase the size of the forest reserve in the backyard by another 4 hectares for the animals to roam. At the park, they have deers, sunbears, snakes amongst other animals. Visitors can help feed the animals but do have the staff present at all times if kids are around as these are wild animals and sometimes they can be a little temperamental.

Entrance Fee for adults = RM6 ; for child = RM3 per person


Postponements of Trip:

* Please be advised that the trip will not be allowed to be postponed unless we are advised of any changes at least 3 working days before trip commencement date

best time to go

In recent years, Kuala Gandah Elephant Centre has become a very popular destination for tourists and especially so during Weekends and School/Public Holidays. There have been numerous complaints from our guests on the lack of crowd control at the centre and the lack of handicap friendly facilities available there. We would like to advise you to visit the centre on any other time other than Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays and school/public holidays to avoid disappointment. On Fridays, there is a long lunch break for friday prayers and the centre will only be open from 2.30pm onwards.

During feeding times 2.00pm on Mondays to Sundays. - however this 2.00pm session will only be open to the public if there are enough visitors to conduct the video show and bathing with elephants etc

Time Activities
10.30 am – 12.00 pm Elephant observation along the interpretive trail.
Visitor will be able to observe the young elephant roaming freely within the secured electric fencing area.
1.00 pm & 1.30 pm Video show
A documentary shows translocation of wild elephants to their new habitat
2.15 pm Bathing and cleaning of elephants by mahout
The visitors will watch the elephant bath given by mahout with explanations by NECC staff.
2.45 pm – 3.15 pm Elephant conservation talks at interpretive stage.
Visitors will be introduced to each of the elephants which include their background and ability.
Note: Please be informed that there is no elephant rides provided in this centre.

If you have a lot of time still, there is a little sanctuary nearby called Deerland (we have yet to visit the place). Several people who have been, mentioned that its worth going but should be wary of the animals as although they are in enclosures and the owner allows visitors to enter the enclosure - they are wild animals. Best not to get too close to the animals.

contact numbers:

Kuala Gandah elephant centre = +6 09 2790391

Deerland = +6 09 279 7249

getting there

In recent years, Kuala Gandah Elephant Centre has become a very popular destination for tourists and especially so during Weekends and School/Public Holidays. There have been numerous complaints from our guests on the lack of crowd control at the centre and the lack of handicap friendly facilities available there. We would like to advise you to visit the centre on any other time other than Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays and school/public holidays to avoid disappointment. On Fridays, there is a long lunch break for friday prayers and the centre will only be open from 2.30pm onwards.

By car

From KL

From KL, take the outer ring road and head for the new Gombak - Kuantan Highway now open. From Gombak take the route all the way to the Lanchang exit. From the Lanchang toll exit, you will get to a T-junction. Turn right here. The signs to the Elephant centre will be very clear. there are also markings on the road, showing you the directions to the centre.

This will eventually take you through a small village passing a children's nursery on the right (taman kanak-kanak bimbingan) which leads to another small fork in the road where sits an orang asli (local indigenous people) settlement. There is a signboard at this fork, which informs the tribe's clan and population statistics. Turn right here and drive through a suspended bridge. Welcome to Kuala Gandah Elephant Centre!

By bus

TEMERLOH - KL EKSPRESS

Lanchang via Karak Highway

7.00am 8.00am 9.00am 10.00am 11.00am 12.00nn 1.00pm 2.00pm 3.00pm 4.00pm 5.00pm 6.00pm(daily)

Ticketing counter at Pekeliling Bus Station, Kuala Lumpur

(take bus heading for Mentakab and Temerloh and ask the ticket counter for a drop-off at Lanchang. Inform the bus driver as well). From Lanchang town, hire a taxi to the Elephant Centre. Make sure you take the early bus in time for the first feed at 10.00am or 2nd feed at 2.00pm.

approx. travel time: 1hr15min (via Karak Highway)

Please buy your return bus tickets when you get to Lanchang Bus Terminal