Malaysia: New attractions at elephant sanctuary

T. N. Alagesh New Straits Times 18 Jul 13;

BETTER EXPERIENCE: Upgrades and other activities to replace popular jumbo rides

TEMERLOH: Although visitors are no longer allowed to ride on and bath with the adult pachyderms at Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary in Lanchang near here, the centre is still a popular destination when it managed to attract 58,000 visitors in the first six months of this year.

It was previously reported that the centre had lost its appeal after the management stopped the elephant riding and bathing activities in October last year, in compliance with the Wildlife Protection Act 2010.

Sanctuary head Nasharuddin Othman said they would organise new activities to attract people to the centre, which received 177,000 visitors last year.

"Early this year, we re-introduced the bathing activity but only with the elephant calves. As part of safety procedure, we assigned between four and six workers to handle the bathing activity," he said at the sanctuary yesterday.

He also said visitors were no longer allowed to climb on the young elephants.

"They can only scrub and splash water on the mammals. At the same time, we will allow them to take photographs while participating in the activity, which is still receiving strong support so far."

Apart from that, he said visitors were also allowed to feed the young elephants, watch adult elephants take a dip in the river with their mahouts and enjoy a 15-minute performance by seven animals.

Nasharuddin said the centre had to take a new approach to fulfil its objective to educate people on the gentle giants.

"Gone are the days when elephants were only trained to perform at a circus or do tricks for entertainment. That is why we've decided to introduce activities that will help people understand these animals better and appreciate them."

He said the sanctuary would also organise activities with the Che Wong Orang Asli community nearby, where visitors could join them in jungle trekking and night walks.

"They can also visit the Orang Asli village and buy their bamboo handicraft. This will help reduce the stress on the elephants as previously, most of the activities revolved around them."

He said upgrading works were being carried out at the sanctuary and would be completed next year.

Apart from a new tourist information centre, the sanctuary will also have roofed walkways, hanging bridges and a water-retention pond.