NOTE:You can see all these pics in full res here. There were just so many good ones it was hard to choose a couple to post here.

Ummm yes, hello, i believe you have potato please, excuse me, pardon me, potato? excuse me, hello, someone said you had potato? excuse me...

So the last full day of our Kuala Lumpur trip we decided to go to the Elephant Sanctuary on our own (sans tour bus). We got up early and hired another taxi driver ($130 for the entire day) to take us to the Elephant Sanctuary in Kuala Gandah which is about a 1.5 hour drive (however on the way back expect 2-3 because youll be hitting rush hour traffic). They take in orphaned and injured Asian Elephants from Malaysia, India, Myanmar, Thailand and other ASEAN countries to rehabilitate them, train them to work as a pack and release them into the Krau Game Reserve and other reserves throughout South East Asia. Those that cant be rehabilitated, such as two young elephants who each lost part of a leg, one to a tiger attack and one to a poachers trap, which I decided should be named Stumpy and Eileen, stay in the park for their entire life. Im not certain but I get the feeling these are the elephants the public gets to see and interact with.

This is a very popular tourist attraction in KL. Almost every hotel, taxi driver and tour agency offers this. They charge about $100 USD per person, which is interesting (read: immoral and a rip off) since entry into the sanctuary is donation only and I read several places that the tour agencies give very little if any of that money to the sanctuary. They dont have a very good website set up and I had difficulty planning it (we got there 4 hours early because of lack of info) so Im posting the official brochure we got there that has times and information.

Lida arguing that the greatest literary accomplishment of Dostoyevsky was in fact not Crime and Punishment but The Idiot, ironically lost on this doe who just wanted a green pea

As I said, we got there early and the sanctuary is on the outskirts of the Krau Game Reserve so theres not much else to do except what amounts to a sad little petting zoo. Although I have to admit it was kinda fun but if you find this kind of thing, well, immoral and a rip off, then skip it. The deer were funny, they had obviously learned how to get attention and when they wanted more potatoes or beans they would pull on your shirt. Lida had on a perfect shirt which helped to highlight the 2 dozen places where the deer were nipping. The older males sat off in the corner of the park looking at the rest with what I interpreted as disapproving looks.

They had some interesting birds (African Greys, 4 or 5 species of Conures), Lida got to hold a Ball Python, but for sure the highlight and they knew it cause it was the last attraction, was the Sun Bear. I take it he got this name because hes lazy and just sits around sun bathing all day. Either that or the golden markings on his chest and snout. I think my first assumption is the more scientific one. Anyway, this is whats great about countries that have no OSHA counter part or silly regulations that say “the general public cannot get in a cage with a bear”. Or if they do have those regulations it doesnt say “the general public can be in a cage with a bear but it cant pet the bear”. Or if they do have that regulation they dont say “the general public can be in a cage with a bear and they can pet it but you cant feed the bear condensed milk out of your hand” cause that would just be dangerous. Well, if youre going to support the exploitation of animals you might as well get a picture of it right?

Meanwhile back at the elephant ranch, there are 2 activities that may seem unnatural, Im not going to vouch for it or decry it but they do allow for elephant rides. 4 of the larger elephants take 125 people at most per day once around a 10 meter circle. Again, 125 people at most are allowed to get on the elephant and ride with her into the stream where you then get to bathe the elephants. Note, this activity is bareback, no saddles or harness. It really lets you feel the power of this animal as you can feel the skin and muscle shift against your legs.

Of course the bathing was the best part. Its actually more playing than anything else. The babies love the attention, people standing around them splashing them, they would roll on to their sides spaying people with there trunks. I have to say that they seemed extremely happy. Its in no way a zoo. The elephants are only exposed to people for 2 hours a day from 2pm to 4pm. They only bring out 6 of the 20+ elephants, all of which seem very calm. Again, Im not going to speak to the morals of it but it did seem far more humane than anything Id seen at zoos in the states.

At any rate, feeding them was really fun. Before the rides and bathing we feed them peanuts and we brought some bananas. Other people had sugar cane which seemed very popular. After a while the babies got tired of taking the peanuts and fruit with their trunks and when someone would hold out some they would just open their mouth wide so they could deposit the offering directly into their “peanut hole”. After the rides and bathing they lined up the big girls (17 of the 20+ are female and I got the feeling they didnt bring the males out) and feed them a proper diner which consisted of a couple hundred pounds of bamboo, which they would step on to break into peices and then take the yummier slices and whack them on the ground to soften them up and desert was a few hundred pounds of some tropical fruit that looked like starfruit.

It was actually a really cool visit. Note that you will smell like Elephant crap for a minimum of 3 days despite taking multiple showers and baths, but it is well worth it. If you do go Id say be generous with your donation. They are trying to prove the effectiveness of their process to the government to get more funding but to do so they need to be able to radio tag the elephants they release to prove that the pack training is actually working. Either way, its a good bit of eco-tourism that I thoroughly enjoyed.

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