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I had never encountered an elephant at close quarters until my visit to an elephant relocation center. After observing their behavior and how they interact with their trainers and each other, I think their intelligence is amazing. Elephants are highly intelligent with relatively large, complex and slow-maturing brains. They have reasoning capabilities, can learn skills and have complex emotions experiencing pain, suffering, sadness, depression and grief. They love to wallow in mud and swish their bodies with grainy sand. As their skin is sensitive to the sun, the mud and sand form a sunscreen of sorts, protecting them from the sun's harsh rays. In the cool, clear stream, the elephants exhibit their playful nature spraying water over unsuspecting visitors and lying on their side in the stream.

The Elephant Training Center in Kuala Gandah, Pahang, is the headquarters for the Malaysian Elephant Translocation Team set up in 1974. Wild elephants are close to extinction in Malaysia and the team has managed to increase the elephant's population from 500 to 1200 in the past 20 years. In 25 years, they have successfully relocated 400 elephants. At the center, there are five elephants ranging in age from 6 to 50 years old. These 'inmates' are not show animals but working elephants specially trained to assist in translocation projects. The center only keeps and trains female elephants as their temperament is more suitable for translocation work.

In Malaysia, the elephant is a symbol of conservation. Due to rampant development, Malaysian virtually impossible for them to roam without encroaching into plantations, estates and villages. In this context, elephants are considered a nuisance. This is where the translocation team comes in. The center is often called to relocate elephants from unwelcome territories to national parks. Wild elephants can be dangerous if threatened. The center's elephants are brought long to give moral support to wild ones who are frightened, angry and confused at being captured and chained. Two working elephants flank a single wild elephant, touching it with their trunk, providing comfort and calm in a slow and delicate process.

It may seem cruel to have the elephants in heavy chains but a spokesman says that it is unavoidable. The trip to the national parks may take hours and is very stressful for the elephants. It is imperative that the elephants are moved to their new home as soon as possible as they may die out of despair and hopelessness. Visitors are shown a National Geographic documentary on how translocation is done. The center has two teams with alternating roles. Each month, one team does translocation work while the other remains at the center to handle day-to-day affairs. The staff's dedication is obvious. They are familiar with the principles, mission statement and aspirations for the center. The key word is 'conservation'.

But knowledge is crucial to creating awareness, especially among the uneducated general public. Usually, it is not elephants that trespass into human territory. Rather, humans are the ones encroaching into elephant territory. The center has noble goals but lacks ample funds to realize its vision. The objective is clear but the process is slow. We may all have to do what we can to help.

From paragraph 1 :
  1.

The writer thinks that the elephant's intelligence is amazing. Give two possible reasons why he thinks so.

   

From paragraph 2 :

  2.

(a) Who are the 'inmates' at the Elephant Training Center in Kuala Gandah ?

(b) What is their specific duty ?

    From paragraph 3 :
  3.

(a) What has led to the reduction of the elephants' natural habitat ?

(b) Describe how the trained elephant assist in the translocation process.

    From paragraph 4 :
  4.

We are told that it is imperative to move the elephants to their new home as soon as possible.

(a) Why is it so ?

(b) What effect will the long trip have on the elephants ?

    From paragraph 5 :
  5.

What is the main obstacle to the center to realize its main vision ?

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Answers
 

1.

(i) They have reasoning capabilities.

(ii) They have complex emotions.

 

2.

(a) They are the working elephants.

(b) They are specially trained to help in relocation projects.

 

3.

(a) Rampant development and deforestation

(b) They give moral support to wild elephants by accompanying them, touching them with their trunk and providing comfort and calm throughout the journey.

 

4.

(a) They may die out of despair and hopelessness.

(b) They may become very stressful.

 

5.

The lack of ample fund will not enable the center to realize its main vision.

 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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