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Projects in Sumatra, Indonesia

Report on Sumatra Mahout Visit to Canada's African Lion Safari

Chris Rico

By Nazaruddin

From May 16 to May 22, 2019, three Mahout staff from Sumatra, members of FOKMAS (Indonesian Mahout Communication Forum), participated in a study tour of the African Lion Safari (ALS) elephant management program in Ontario, Canada. The Sumatra participants were Mr. Nazaruddin, Way Kambas National Park, Mr. Tri Sulistiyono, Way Kambas National Park, and Mr. Hidayat, Bali Elephant Camp.

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The ALS facility manages a large breeding herd of Asian elephants and is currently home to 16 elephants. Of those, 10 are adult females with calves ranging in age from 6 months old to 5 years old, and there are 2 males. The facility is open to the public and provides educational demonstrations, elephant rides, and a daily lake swim for the elephants. Most of the elephants are managed in hands-on system which makes the facility an ideal site for a visit by Asian Mahouts as this is the primary elephant management system used across Asia.

The Sumatra Mahouts had met Charlie Gray, ALS Superintendent of Elephants, when he participated in an Indonesian Mahout Workshop in Way Kambas National Park in 2009 and demonstrated his method of starting handling of young calves. As several camps across Sumatra have now had multiple elephants calves born, FOKMAS felt there was a need for their members to learn more updated techniques of handling and managing captive born calves, and requested an opportunity to visit Charlie and ALS, and experience this program first-hand.

During the visit to ALS the Sumatra Mahouts were able to view elephant calf and adult training sessions, elephant foot care, public demonstrations and interactions. They also observed the daily husbandry routine of feeding, watering, bathing elephants, and cleaning enclosures.

The Sumatra staff was especially impressed with the cleanliness of all the elephant housing and enclosures at ALS, and the care taken with elephant feeding. They were very interested in the training and found the elephant management and mahout work system very disciplined. They also felt that the ALS staff is very devoted to the elephants and they appreciated the fact that there are elephant demonstrations and elephant rides offered to the public.

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The Sumatra Mahouts will make a presentation about their experience to the Director General of Biodiversity Conservation in Indonesia, as well as to their direct supervisors and colleagues in their respective jobs. They will also share the information with Mahouts from across Indonesia during the next Indonesian Mahout Workshop, tentatively scheduled for late 2019.

The Sumatra staff are very grateful for the visit and thank African Lion Safari for their kind hospitality and for generously offering the opportunity to learn from Charlie Gray. They thank Charlie and his staff for all of their help and support during the visit. Finally, they thank Asian Elephant Support and the International Elephant Foundation for providing support for travel and visa expenses.