Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Malaysia Chronicles Seven: The Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary and the Orang Asli

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Established by the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks in 1989, the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary is home to displaced elephants whose habitats have been transformed into plantations. As of today more than 300 wild elephants have been relocated to this conservation center.

Upon arrival at the center, we were made to watch a video that showed how the pachyderms were rescued across Peninsular Malaysia and given sanctuary in the wild. Like a young girl bursting with excitement over the idea of riding an elephant for the first time, I couldn’t wait for movie to end; I couldn’t wait for the elephants to arrive. And when they did, I was awed.

1-an elephant up close; 2-elephant in chains; 3-the elephant ride; 4-the sanctuary; 5-a family about to be dunked into the river with the elephant; 6-elephants on their way to the river; 7-crowd watching elephants being bathed; 8-a newly bathed elephant
These elephants came to mind when, as part of the organized tour, we visited the Orang Asli Village within the Taman Negara National Park. The Orang Asli, or ‘natural people’, are the indigenous peoples of Peninsular Malaysia living in remote forest areas whose land had been encroached upon and converted into rubber and oil palm plantations, golf courses and other ‘development’ projects, which resulted to their displacement. Treated as curios, the Orang Asli who had been allowed to stay in the National Park are displayed in their ‘natural habitat’ like the elephants in Kuala Gandah that are probably reluctant to be paraded around for tourists like us to gape at. Unmindful of–or perhaps already accustomed to--the stupid stares, the condescending looks or the pitiful glances, the Orang Asli go about their simple lives, away from the conveniences of modernity yet incessantly intruded upon for tourism’s sake. Displaced by development and given ‘sanctuary’ as indemnity, the elephants and indigenous peoples alike have become objects of entertainment, if not the worst kind of travel voyeurism.

the blow pipe bamboos made by the Orang Asli and their village


Arti said...

Elephants are majestic... They are found in so many temples here in southern India... I have never ridden one though!!
Have a great day:)

Angeli said...

Ganesh, the God of Knowledge and overcoming obstacles, is the elephant-headed deity son of Shiva and Parvati, right?

I like elephants, too. :)

witsandnuts said...

We were supposed to visit this as well as the deer sanctuary. But we cancelled when we realized we were having an elephant experience overload since we've just had the encounter while in Singapore Zoo.

Those are fun pictures you got. :)

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