The Elephant Safari Park at Taro, Ubud is the only ‘Dedicated Elephant Rescue Facility in Bali’ and is home to 27
‘rescued’ Sumatran elephants and 4 babies born at the park. Many people misunderstand the reasons and logic
behind the parks existence and methods of training and also what is good or not good for rescued elephants in captivity. Many myths and often lies are put online by ignorant people who have little understanding or knowledge of how our park operates and how we train and look after our 31 elephants. However it is impossible in this critical world of the internet to make every single person happy.
The elephants at Taro were originally captured by the Indonesian Government Forestry Department to save them from irate villagers or land developers who had come to see them as pests after the elephants rain forest home was destroyed by the ever expanding greed of people. In Sumatra only a fraction of their original jungle still remains, as more plantations are grown on former jungle areas. Elephants are often trapped, poisoned or shot by developers to remove the problem. The ‘lucky’ elephants are caught and put into government camps, where they live out a short and boring life chained up (tethered) for most of each day. Life expectancy in these camps is minimal due to the unsatisfactory conditions. Our elephants were ‘rescued’ from these Sumatran camps.
After bringing the rescued elephants to Bali, our company had to develop ways to make a new home for them to keep them healthy, happy and mentally stimulated. This required some ‘compromises’ that were needed to protect both the elephants and the people working with them and also guests visiting the park. This is not total perfection, however it is the best possible, as the alternative is misery and ultimately death if they remained in Sumatra. The rescue of these large animals however and their upkeep is extremely expensive, so a financial plan also had to be considered, as we receive no financial support from either government, business or private sources. Hence the Elephant Safari Park has to be completely self‐supporting financially.
As an Australian I was immediately concerned with the ‘Asian Attitude’ towards animals, that seemed at times quite cruel and sometimes heartless to us soft hearted Westerners. So I set out to change what I perceived to be the problems with keeping a large endangered species in a relatively confined area and the training methods usually used in training them in other elephant facilities. We also set out to try and change local attitudes as well towards the care of animals. Here is some of the logic behind our parks philosophy and systems that we have implemented.
THE ELEPHANT SAFARI PARK & LODGE ‐ TARO
The Elephant Safari Park and Lodge is the only ‘Dedicated Elephant Rescue Park in Bali’. In a captive situation some compromises have to be made to insure that both animals and guests are happy and safe. This will explain some of our procedures here at the park that are necessary for a harmonious and safe environment. Be assured that we are experts regarding the care of elephants and our top priority is to have a happy and healthy herd.
WE ARE A SANCTUARY NOT A ZOO
Please do not compare the Elephant Safari Park at Taro, Ubud with any other Elephant related facility in either Bali or Asia, as our philosophy and training methods vary drastically with other places. We use Western accepted logic with all our training and take great care to treat our elephants with kindness, patience & respect. It is irresponsible for people to lump all elephant places into one basket, as this is both unfair and incorrect. Generalizing each and every elephant place is wrong and criticism should be confined to true facts, not internet gossip or personal vendettas by certain people and ‘Internet trolls’.
Elephants are cared for 24 hours a day and their comfort and happiness is most important to us. We have 24 hours veterinary care available and each elephant is given its’ correct diet and vitamins daily. They are bathed twice a day in one of the two park lakes and are constantly monitored for any sign of ill health and immediately pulled out of operation if sickness is suspected.
Elephants are not forced to do anything that they do not like to do and training is done using a repetition and reward system of patience and empathy. No cruel methods are used and there is an instant dismissal for any mahout striking an elephant. The ‘gancho’ carried by the mahout is for emergency use only to protect both elephant and guest in a dangerous situation, such as a dog attack while outside the park.
You can feel safe around the parks elephants as they have been trained using no brutality, so they are relaxed around people, as they do not see them as a threat. We use a system of repetition, patience and reward. As long as guests follow commonsense rules they are in no danger. Elephants are easily startled so;
1. Do not shout near the elephants 4. Keep behind the barriers
2. Control your children near the elephants 5. Follow park staff directions
3. Do not smoke near or on an elephant 6. Do not use a ‘flash’ in an elephants eyes
SEATING & RIDING
In the wild elephants can walk up to 30 kilometres a day searching for food and to maintain good health. The seating we use on an elephant is not heavy and does not hurt the elephant. It is well padded underneath and the weight of the chair and two people does not give the elephant any discomfort, otherwise the elephant would not tolerate the chair. Rides give elephants exercise to ensure their health and allow for interaction. Elephants need a ‘work out’ similar to humans and for much the same reasons, so walking and taking guests on rides does a number of positive things.
1. It relieves boredom from inaction 4. It protects elephants from foot & nail problems
2. It stimulates good digestion 5. It gives ongoing interaction with their mahout and guests
3. It helps with bone density and muscle 6. Stories of ‘rides being cruel’ are totally wrong and unfounded
development & the required exercise at this park
Each mahout has a ‘special’ relationship with his elephant and a strong bond of trust is built up over a number of years. The mahout is responsible to monitor his elephant and watch for any sign of sickness, as he is accountable for the animal’s well being. Elephants have worked together with mankind for more than 5000 years in perfect harmony.
ELEPHANT TALENT SHOWS
The elephant talent shows are short events done at various times of the day. It is NOT a circus performance, but rather an insight into the animal’s intelligence and strength. Only certain elephants do the show on a rotating basis and none are forced, as training is done according to each animals personality.
In 2001 the world renowned Russian artists Komar and Melamid came to Asia to help teach elephants how to paint for the ‘Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project’. Consequently we now have a few elephants who enjoy painting from time to time. Only some elephants want to paint, so it is purely their choice to either paint or not.
Under Balinese Government rules elephants are not allowed to roam free when unattended on this island. So at night and at certain times during the day elephants are restrained with a leg tether when unattended. This does not cause them any discomfort and elephants quickly learn to accept it and to associate it with feeding times. It is
also necessary for the following reasons.
1. To follow government regulations 5. To protect the park gardens and infrastructure
2. To stop elephants stealing each other’s food 6. To protect guests & private property
3. To stop larger elephants bullying smaller ones 7. To allow staff and elephants rest and have meal breaks
4. To avoid conflict between male elephants 8. When an elephant or staff is unwell and off work