Some time ago conservationists realised that Sumatra’s neglected captive elephants could not only be used to patrol the forests and reduce conflict, but could actually benefit from an improved life as a result.
With their well trained mahouts in “conservation response units”, the elephant patrols can be very effective at preventing illegal activity inside protected areas, as well as protecting villagers’ crops by driving wild elephants off fields and plantations and back into the forest.
In 2010 “Conservation Response Unit” was established for the protection of Way Kambas National Park and its population of 180 elephants, using two captive bull elephants and their mahouts from the nearby elephant camp at the park headquarters. The unit also currently employs two mahouts from the local community, thereby creating a vital link between the people and the park.
Having seen that it can work well in this region, Elephant Family is developing the Way Kambas Conservation Response Unit to be even more effective, with the addition of two more elephants and their mahouts. The support will also enable a more of the park to be covered.
To protect Way Kambas National Park and its elephants by preventing illegal activity within the park and protecting crops outside.
The patrols have already significantly reduced the level of illegal trapping and logging within the park. They have also been so successful at protecting crops that large areas of farmland bordering the park are now being cultivated again, having previously been abandoned due to crop loss to elephants. The unit has therefore developed good relations with the local community, changed their perceptions of elephants, and engaged them in conservation.