Harris, rescue and care in Sumatra
A tale of a special elephant and a true story of exceptional elephant rescue and care
His name is Harris. He was 18 years old in December, 2008, and was now alone as the other elephants he had lived with had all died, the last one recently. Undernourished and full of parasites, his future was appearing dim. Thankfully, the manager of the Seblat Elephant Camp on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia contacted the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (Vesswic) for assistance. Vesswic, a legally registered nonprofit that was founded in 2003 by a group of Sumatran veterinarians with a special interest in wildlife medicine and conservation, contributes to the conservation of Sumatran wildlife by providing veterinary expertise and services, and they realize their conservation goals through supporting programs and activities conducted by other organizations in Sumatra.
With Vesswic's connections in the international elephant community, the request for help flowed quickly, via other elephant organizations such as the International Elephant Foundation (IEF), who in turn relayed Harris' plight to their zoo members where a donor for the funds needed to relocate Harris was quickly found. Thanks to the efforts of Asian Elephant Support, a family in California, with boys 9 and 7 years old, stepped forward to help save Harris. Harris was moved to one of the elephant camps where Vesswic provides medical care for elephants, in agreement with the Sumatran government.
Harris received a new lease on life....and a new nickname: Romio! His nickname is made up from parts of the names of the two young boys in the family who helped rescue him: Rostam and Mario.
Eighteen months later, Harris, under the excellent care of his mahout, Saparudin, is now a healthy elephant who benefits from the mental stimulation, physical activity, and dietary opportunities of eco-tourism treks and forest patrols. He has grown stronger with exercise and a healthy diet, receives routine medical care, and is safe-guarded from ivory poachers.
Harris was one of several elephants chosen for a new eco-tourist destination in Sumatra. With his mahout, Harris showed his magnificent home to visitors while they learn to admire and respect this wonderful animal and also come to understand the plight of today's elephants.
On forest patrols, Harris helps keep his wild counterparts safe from poachers and illegal settlers, whose presence hasten the fragmentation and loss of the wild elephants' home.
Harris is now in the Bukit Kabar reserve, which is a protected area. He is with 5 females from Seblat and they will be doing patrols in this protected area. He still has the same mahout, Saparuddin, which is so important for building a trusting and healthy relationship.
Harris has come a long way in less than two years. From an elephant whose future was quite in doubt, to a healthy and handsome young bull, well cared for.
Harris is an ambassador for his species to the visitors who come to meet him and the people of the neighboring villages who live in a land where wild elephants still roam. And his impact isn't solely in Sumatra. Those two young boys in California are the next generation half a world away....learning to care about elephants and, learning the needs of ‘their' elephant also teaches them to care for and about the needs of all precious wild animals and wild places.
We at Asian Elephant Support (AES) would like to be in a position to act quickly when another elephant needs urgent assistance. The President of AES has followed the work taking place in Sumatra for several years, has visited some of the elephant camps and is most impressed by the efforts being made there as well as the people doing the work. Your donation today can help assure the next elephant in need will be as fortunate as Harris.
Please contact us to put your name on our email list for news as we are able to do more exciting and constructive Asian elephant conservation work.
MAY 2016: We are sad to report Harris died this month. He had received regular vet care and the elephant post-mortem indicates kidney failure, so it appears he very possibly had a chronic kidney issue. We appreciate the financial support of Eric and Geesoo Reifschneider that provided the opportunity for Harris to have almost another decade of life in good care.