A large bull once lived in the jungles of Teluk Anson (Teluk Intan) with a large
herd of elephants. The herd often went for a stroll to the edge of the jungle,
close to the old Port Weld - Taiping railway line. It was not an exceptionally
busy railway line - only a slow locomotive ran the track once daily,
transporting goods and people to and from the port. One fateful day, as the
elephants ambled across the tracks, as they probably had done a million times
over, they failed to notice the goods train chugging down the tracks until the
very last moment. In a desperate attempt to save the family, the bull rushed to
the tracks and stood his ground, between the oncoming train and the herd.
train rammed right into the elephant, the impact toppling the train. He managed
to save the herd but sacrificed his life in the process. The British were so
touched by the story of the elephant's sacrifice that they erected a monument
where he lay as a remembrance to him and his family. The forgotten plaque still
stands by the side of the now abandoned track - the only reminder of heroism
beyond imagination. The elephant's skull was transported to Kuala Lumpur and can
now be seen at the National Museum, standing as an emblem of unconditional love
for his herd and social dedication to each member of his group.
Elephants were once common throughout Africa and Asia, but they dwindled
severely during the 20th century, largely due to the massive ivory trade. While
some populations are now stable and growing, poaching, conflict and habitat
destruction continue to threaten the species. The largest land mammal on earth,
the African elephant, weighs up to eight tons. It is distinguished by its
massive body, large ears and a long trunk, which it uses as a hand to pick up
objects, a horn to trumpet warnings, an arm raised in greeting or a hose for
drinking water and bathing.
Asian elephants, however, are much smaller in size. Their ears are straight
at the bottom, unlike the large fan-shaped ears of the African species. Only
some Asian male elephants have tusks, whereas all African elephants, including
females, have tusks. Elephants are either left or right-tusked, and the one they
use more is usually smaller because of wear and tear. The Asian elephant has
four toes on the hind foot and five on the forefoot; the African elephant has
three on the hind foot and five on the forefoot.
Led by a matriarch, elephants are organised into complex social structures of
females and calves. Male elephants prefer to live in isolation. A single calf is
born to a female once every 4 to 5 years after a gestation period of 22 months -
the longest of any mammal. The calves stay with their mothers for years and are
also cared for by other females in the group.
Whether African or Asian, elephants need extensive land to survive. They roam
in herds and consume hundreds of pounds of plant matter in a single day, so they
require vast amounts of food, water and space. Thus, these large mammals often
compete with humans for resources.
In Malaysia, elephants estimated at below 3 000 in total now, have been
facing extinction for years. The biggest threat to the elephant population here
is the massive clearance of the rainforests. Elephants used to have many
thousands of square kilometres of rainforests where they could roam freely. Now,
with roads, villages, cities and oil palm plantations taking over their homes,
the elephants' natural migration path has been limited or destroyed. Moreover,
their keen sense of smell leads them into trouble sometimes. Unable to resist
the delicious roots of young palm trees, they sneak out into plantations at
night to raid the nurseries, uprooting every tree in sight.
Often, the wild elephants are also entrapped in the middle of approaching
development. In such situations, these frightened beasts bulldoze acres of
freshly planted crops. Often, the plantation owners, tired of having to foot the
bill for the damage, call the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to
remove the elephants. Being strictly protected under the Protection of Wildlife
Act of 1972 under the endangered species listing, culling of elephants is
prohibited. The rangers track them down, capture and translocate the elephants
to larger tracts of jungle areas, like the Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation
Centre where they can roam in peace.
Trait : They have a keen
sense of smell.
Result : They sneak out into
plantations at night to get the delicious roots of young palm trees and
raid the nurseries, uprooting every tree in sight.
Trait : They are easily
frightened by changes, such as development.
Result : When frightened,
they bulldoze acres of freshly planted crops, causing severe losses to
plantation owners. ( Choose any one )
(b) These elephants are
Elephants have drastically
declined in numbers due to ivory trafficking, poaching, development and
habitat devastation. They have huge bodies, large ears and trunks used
as hands, horns, raised arms or hoses. African elephants are bigger with
tusks but lesser toes than their Asian counterparts. The females and
calves move in herds but the bulls favor living alone. Calves are born
after 22 months and looked after by the other females. Elephants need
great quantities of food, water and land to survive. But threatened by
deforestation and development of land by humans, they cannot roam
freely. Led by the smell of young palm roots, they destroy nurseries.
Development also causes many frightened elephants to raze newly planted
crops, so they have to be trailed, caught and relocated to sanctuaries