Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary

March 4, 2009 - Filed under Stuff to do

Our visit to the sanctuary to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary was unforgettable, and the highlight of our six months in Asia so far. While doing some research online I came across the email address for a man named Razali…. also known as The Elephant Man. Not really knowing what to expect I sent him an email and enquired about a trip to the sanctuary. He quickly responded and we arranged to met up saturday morning.

During the two hour ride out to the sanctuary, Razali told us story after story of the elephants and the history of Kuala Gandah. This man is an endless source of information and knows pretty much everything there is to know about elephants. We arrived at the sanctuary just before ten and joined the staff for a quick breakfast before being introduced to the elephants. Most of the activity happens in the afternoon, so all of the organized tours from KL arrive between 12 and 1pm, but because we were there early and with Razali we were able to get involved almost as soon as we arrived.

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary

There were a couple of local groups there, all Malaysian, but still only about 20 people in total and we all got to take part in the morning feeding of the elephants. After which Razali took us to a restricted area, which houses a couple of injured elephants. Mike and I got to help prepare a bottle for the youngest and newest arrival at the sanctuary, a two year old elephant who’s back leg has been injured so badly he was unable to stand. We took turns bottle feeding him while he wrapped his trunk around our ankles, arms and even fingers just as a human baby would do. It was inspiring, sad and amazing all at the same time, he was so cute and helpless… but full of curiosity. I can definitely say that I’ve ever experienced anything quite like it.

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary

After lunch the bulk of the tour groups started to arrive. We watched a short video about the Elephant Capture & Translocation Unit, and then again participated in the afternoon feeding. About half way through, Razali snuck us off to go feed Mek Bunga, one of the original elephants involved in the relocation of several wild elephants, who has since gone blind from cataracts.

Mike feeding Mek Bunga at the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary

We felt so lucky to be able to be so involved with the elephants, and get to help out where few tourists ever do. If you’re at all considering a trip to the sanctuary, I truly hope you will consider contacting Razali.

Also if you are coming from North America, Australia, Europe or any western county and would like to help out, please contact Razali before you arrive in Malaysia and he will be able to let you know what sorts of supplies the sanctuary or the translocation unit is in need of.

Although funded by the government, money can often get tied up in paper work and some times little things that you and I take for granted can be of great help to the team. For example a couple from New Zealand recently brought with them 8 waterproof pouches to hold gps units and walkie-talkies during relocation treks into the jungle.

Mek Bunga - Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary

The History of Kuala Gandah

Opened in 1989 by the Malaysia Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Kuala Gandah is dedicated to the continued protection of the endangered Asian elephant.

Over the years due to economic development, these elephants, which at one time could be found all over peninsular Malaysia, have been isolated to smaller and smaller pockets of jungle. As a result these elephants regularly crossed paths with humans resulting in large numbers being shot, poisoned, electrocuted, or trapped in steel snares which almost amputated them as they struggled to escape. By 1972, it was estimated that the elephant population was down to only 500.

In 1972, the Protection of Wildlife Act was passed, preventing the killing, hunting, confinement or trade of elephants and other endangered species, and in 1974, the Malaysian Government established the Elephant Capture & Translocation Unit. The team’s duty is to track down, sedate and relocate problem elephants from areas where their natural habitat is being constantly encroached on by humans and transfer them to more remote jungle reserves and National Parks.

baby elephants crossing the soccer field

In 1989 the unit was given some land within the Krau Game reserve, from which to operate a base. Today there are 32 full time and 6 contracted staff living and working at the center, as well as 14 elephants, some of which are being trained to replace the older elephants that help in the translocation process of the wild elephants.

As well as being a base for the translocation team, Kuala Gandah also aims to promote public awareness of the plight of the Asian elephant, and to support research into elephant translocation and conservation. The center also looks after orphaned and injured elephants to help ensure their continued survival.

The center is open for visitors daily from 1 to 5pm, and almost any tour company in Kuala Lumpur can arrange this. However for a more personal and unforgettable experience contact Mr. Razali, also known as the Elephant Man.

Razali - The Elephant Man & Lokimala

Mr. Razali has been a friend to Kuala Gandah since its opening, and though not a paid staff member Razali has been instrumental in helping the sanctuary survive. Until 1997, the sanctuary was unheard of by the general Malaysian public, but was in desperate need of financial support. Razali organized the media, tour guides and travel agents, suggested & created activities, and led surprised visitors to the sanctuary, all in an effort to get the word out.

Razali has also been part of several expeditions with the Elephant Capture & Translocation Unit. A former member of the Malaysian VAT69 Commandos, he has immense experience with the jungle and has gone to great lengths to secure donations and equipment to help with the success of the until. To date approximately 400 elephants have been successfully relocated.

Click here for more pictures from our trip to the Elephant Sanctuary.
For more information on Kuala Gandah visit http://www.myelephants.org/ and to contact Razali – The Elephant Man, email jungletrekker@wildmail.com

Elephant Water Fight

Posted by: Shim

8 Comments so far

  1. Murray March 6, 2009 12:23 am

    Wow, what a great story/trip! Nice one guys. Do you need me to send out a truckload of peanuts for Jumbo?

  2. Melinda September 18, 2009 2:04 am

    Hi there – we’re going to KL in November and I was researching the elephant sanctuary and came across your site. The elephant man sounds awesome. May I ask though what does he charge (approx) and did he pick you up from your hotel in KL and drop you back? It would be only me and my partner, Peter.. Thanks, Melinda

  3. Shim September 20, 2009 1:42 pm

    Hi Melinda. The elephant sanctuary was an unforgettable experience, I know you’ll enjoy it. I can’t recall the exact cost, but it was cheaper than every tour operator was willing to offer and we got to be a lot more involved and hands on with the elephants than any of the other tourists. We didn’t get picked up at our hotel, but met him at a nearby monorail station. Drop Rizali an email at jungletrekker@wildmail.com, and he can sort you out with more details.

  4. Marieanne October 19, 2009 5:28 pm

    Hi, just wanted to say thank you for a wealth of great info, we arrive in KL on saturday, we have contacted the ‘elephant man’ and fingers crossed we plan to visit the sanctuary next week…..wind up torches ready and waiting!! we really try to avoid the tourist circus so really grateful to stumble across your blog. Thanks!

  5. Raz December 8, 2009 5:23 am

    Chepor is already walking around and its only a matter time before his leg muscles develops and he will be allowed to join his fellow smallish elephants. Every morning before the water therapy session, we bring him around the field for him to pick on the grass!

  6. claire July 15, 2010 5:20 am

    hello Razali !
    i went with you and my friend Clemence in Kuala Gandah in may 2009 to see and help Chepor. It’s so a good news :)))

  7. Rosa L. November 10, 2011 6:22 pm

    Such a great story! Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I hope to travel here one day and your story only inspires me more :)

  8. raz August 8, 2012 4:02 am

    …and last Monday, we finally fixed a prosthetic limb onto Miss Tripod’s amputated left leg….she lost her lower left leg to poachers…..


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