A look behind the Asian elephant conservation effort

More needs to be done, or the future may not be as bright for these majestic animals


The 12-year-old elephant called Selendang walks easier these days.

A new prosthetic leg has helped this giant mammal to enjoy her routines at the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre.

Selendang lost a foot to a poacher’s trap when she was two years old. Many, however, were less fortunate.

Hunting for these gigantic mammals has pushed the Asian elephants to the verge of extinction.

Encroachment into their habitat due to land opening for agriculture and other economic activities, brought these animals closer to humans.

As demand for commodity increases, mass forest clearing had been carried out to create large-scale plantation areas.

But that confrontation has led to the Asian elephants being the primary target.

Presently, there are about 1,200 Asian elephants in Malaysia — or one elephant for every 26,000 people in the country.

Across the region, there are about 40,000 Asian elephants and their habitat continues to be under threat.

But initiatives like the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre has provided a lifeline to these animals.

Since its inception 30 years ago, the centre had relocated 800 elephants to areas where these beautiful creatures can live in the wild.

Challenges to Help Preserve Wild Animals


Hunting for these gigantic mammals has pushed the Asian elephants to the verge of extinction (Pic by Afif Abd Halim/TMR)

Awareness is high among Malaysians about the threat to wildlife in the country.

But the main challenge is to fund the efforts to preserve these endangered animals.

Export-Import Bank of Malaysia Bhd (EXIM Bank) chairman Datuk Mat Noor Nawi said more can be done by corporates to help such efforts.

The government-owned development bank recently contributed RM200,000 to the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre.

Established in 1989 by Malaysia’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks, the elephant sanctuary is one of the few organisations in the country dedicated to conserving and relocating displaced elephants.

The Pahang-based centre has successfully relocated 800 wild elephants threatened by habitat loss over the last 30 years.

And the centre’s staff of only 24 make the achievements of relocating 800 elephants even greater.

Cost an Obstacle

Funding the daily operation of the Kuala Gandah sanctuary is not the only challenge.

According to the centre’s officer, on average, relocating each elephant would cost RM50,000 as these elephants need to be captured and then transported to secure and safe areas.

Reaching some of these remote habitats is not easy, with trips taken through difficult areas.

A lot of the money also goes to providing the much needed nutrition for these gigantic mammals.

The Asian elephant can live between 50 and 60 years.

An adult elephant consumes 136kg of food daily — a financial test for the centre, even with the aid from the government.

Mat Noor said more corporate leaders need to collectively address the issue.

“EXIM Bank is the first player from the corporate world to contribute to the Kuala Gandah centre,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

“We are happy to be the first and hopefully more corporate leaders will become aware of the situation and contribute to the cause.”

Asian Elephant Survival in Malaysia

Authorities are concerned about the dwindling number of Asian elephants in the country.

Ongoing conservation and relocation efforts aim to prevent further decline in the elephant population.

Enforcement has been strengthened to protect endangered animals in the wild, and not just dedicated solely to Asian elephants.

Authorities are also curbing the exports of exotic amphibians, snakes and lizards.

However, the multibillion dollar industry is fuelling the exotic animal trade worldwide.

Without concerted efforts and greater participation from corporates, centres like Kuala Gandah would face an uphill battle.

The 12-year-old Selendang with her prosthetic leg, and tiger attack survivor Sanum, are some of the successful statistics in the Asian elephant preservation in Malaysia.

More needs to be done, or the future may not be as bright for these majestic animals.