Posted on 07 July 2004   |  

On April 26, 2004 4 elephants to become Riau's first Flying Squad Team Patrol and 8 mahouts departed from the Minas Elephant Conservation Center. Following the official Instruction Letter issued by the Conservation and Natural Resources Agency, April 26, 2004, Drs Nukman, head of Conservation Regional I, was instructed to : (1) evacuate tame elephants from Minas Center to deploy patrol (Patrolling Elephant) in Lubuk Kembang Bunga village, Ukui Sub district, Pelalawan District, and (2) deliver 4 flying squad elephants and 8 mahouts by trucks.

The four elephants and eights mahouts had attended tough process of recruitment and training had also evaluated their own performance both of work and motivation. In particular, the four mahouts sent by Minas Elephant Center, were mahouts of outstanding performance, while the remaining were ex- mahouts who had resigned but wish to return as mahouts for this new and exciting activity as part of the Flying Squad team.

A few of the qualifications required of the elephants for flying squad team are ; 2 males (bulls) and 2 females (cows); originally captured in Riau Province and trained in Minas Elephant Center ; accustomed to and controllable by mahouts ; in physically good health with good performance (no physical defect) ; accustomed to living in the forest and; familiar with wild elephants. The four selected elephants were not the best of all elephants at the Center as the Center itself requires outstanding elephants to train other elephants now staying in the Center.

Flying squad is patrolling to get familiar
with the area.
Photo Nurchalis Fadhli/Doc. WWF
Standards and criteria for mahouts are, : courageous and experienced in handling previous wild elephant captures executed by the Minas Elephant Center ; willing to cooperate as a team ; caring and loving for elephants.

The translocation was executed during the night and the journey took a 12-hour drive to the location, normally it can be reached within 4 hours. To transport the four elephants, 2 big trucks were used. Each truck contained a bull and a cow. The trucks arrived at Lubuk Kembang Bunga early in the morning were the animals were taken directly to selected location.

The very first task done was consolidating within the team. The consolidation was filled with several discussions covering wide-ranging issues such as: better understanding of equipment required for an operation; job distribution, daily role and responsibility of each team member; to implement patrol and expel mechanisms. Such consolidation was considered essential to implement duties and responsibility.

Duties and responsibilities include : Sending wild elephants entering communities' fields back to their habitat; making sure that flying squad operation keep prioritizing the safety of both mahouts and elephants; monitoring and providing food for the flying squad elephants and taking good care of them; ensuring that the operations of the flying squad does not sacrifice communities' farms and fields; coordinating activities and spreading information regarding the project mostly to residents of Lubuk Kembang Bunga, Air Hitam and to companies like PT. RAPP, PT. Inti Indo Sawit, etc.

Within a month, on May 30, the team received information from local residents that a number of wild elephants were found at the boundary of local communities' areas and the proposed conservation area (Tesso Nilo) and was only 3 km from the flying squad camp. Immediately, the flying squad team (without the elephants) and local residents sent back the wild elephants by using various sounds. It was not necessary to use the elephants this time.

Giving additional food for the flying
Photo Nurchalis Fadhli/Doc. WWF
No wild elephants entering villages for a month was actually a blessing. This meant that the team still had some time to train and complete equipment requirements and adjust rules in order for the team work at the maximum. In can be conclude that for the first month, the team simply familiarized themselves with teamwork and the environtment. However, if wild elephants raided the village, the flying squad team would be on the alert.

In the second month, there were no wild elephants reported. At this stage, 4 rutine tasks had been developed : Scheduling team members to manage and handle supplement feeds, done twice a week; scheduling team members for
watching over the flying squad elephants during the night; motor cycle patrolling through the villages twice a week to observe whether or not wild elephants approaching the communities' areas, as well as developing good relationships with the residents; training the elephants in elephants patrolling an area to detect wild elephants but also to better navigate various geographical conditions (such as waste land, fields and farmland, and other areas), and also to make the elephants used to patrolling. Initially this was done once a week. In the second month, additional training was conducted, including maps reading,GPS operating and radio communicating.

In the third month, a number of activities were repeated but intensified, for example elephants patrolling twice a week. It is expected that by the end of the fourth month the flying squad team will have found the ideal format and the team will have been accustomed to this work.

(For further information: contact Nurchalis Fadli,


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