Would you join us on #NasibGajah media trip to Riau?” I read the message in my inbox and I was like, really?

I was contacted by WWF Indonesia who asked me to join them on a media trip for their national campaign focused on saving Sumateran elephants. Super awesome! Of course I replied, yes.

WWF Indonesia is running a project on human-wildlife conflict mitigation (at Tesso Nilo national park). Part of the work is focused on the Pusat Pelatihan Gajah (Elephant training center) Minas.

Of course there is a reason why this project is so important; conflict between humans and elephants. This is a big problem and to understand what is at stake we visited Mandau/Duri in Riau.

Growing up in Jakarta, I’ve only ever saw elephants in the zoo. The media trip was an opportunity to learn about native Indonesian elephants and see them in the wild. It was also an opportunity to visit a part of Indonesia that I hadn’t ever been to before.

Sumatran Elephants
Indonesia has the highest human-wildlife conflicts in Southeast Asia. Every day in Indonesia animals and humans come into conflict, but there is a very low level of awareness about the problem. So l would like to share several reasons why elephants are important for us and what you can do to help preserve them from extinction (Sumatran elephants are critically endangered).

Tino and Mommy Ria Tesso Nilo Flying Squad Riau
Elephants patrol at Tesso Nilo National Park

5 reasons why I think elephants are cool:

1. Provides oxygen
First thing first, who doesn’t need oxygen? No one, right?

Elephants are a key part of the local habitat. There are many types of trees in the forests that depends on elephants for the seed germination and dispersal. Without elephants these trees could become extinct.

It said that one adult elephant can eat until 200kg of food. They basically eat a huge amount of greens and (lucky or unlucky) have poor digestive systems. Their poo is the hero! It spreads seeds and nutrients around the forest meaning healthier forest producing the oxygen you need to breath.

2. Helpful
Elephants are huge and they leave a path wherever they go (this is one of the reasons there is a lot of human animal conflict). These paths help other animals by opening up new areas of the forest for them to access. The huge footsteps also create holes where rain water gathers. This can be useful and is even sometimes needed by other animals.

Elephants can even be trained to mediate conflict between human and wildlife. Flying squad elephants are used to solve problems between humans and wild elephants. The trained elephants do patrol (with mahout) in the national park, which stops wild elephants getting close to residential areas.

3. Patient
Elephants have quite long gestation compared with other mammals. An elephant pregnancy usually lasts 22 months! Omg! That is like 2.5 times a human pregnancy. Can you imagine carrying your soon-to-be child in your tummy for that amount of time? Then there is the fact it is a baby elephant. It must be very heavy!

For your information, while elephants are pregnant for 624 days, a horse is (only) 336 days, a hippo is (only) 240 days and a cow is (only) 280 days.

4. Clever and so human!
A lot of studies have proven that elephants are one of the most intelligent species. During my trip in Tesso Nilo I watched they respond when you call their names. That is why the mahouts always asked us to always greet elephants by their name at the camp. Elephants also show compassion and love.

It’s more than just recognizing their own names though. Even Tino the youngest elephant at the camp was able to do problem solving.

5. Uber cute πŸ™‚
Yes! Elephants are extremely cute. At first I was scared of them, obviously because their huge size and they seems pretty fierce. After spending some time in Tesso Nilo flying squad camp I found out that they are actually very friendly and extremely cute as well. Check out the below picture, I know you’ll agree with me.

Firsta with Tino at Tesso Nilo Flying Squad

For more info about #NasibGajah campaign, read here – website is in Indonesian. You can also read Sutiknyo, my travel partner during this #NasibGajah trip, here: Nasib Gajah, kampanye selamatkan gajah Sumatera bareng WWF Indonesia! Elephant crisis demands a global movement! Understand. Take Action. Share!

With the support of WWF Indonesia, Sutiknyo and I have, each of us, 2 sets of merchandise for you! Each goody bag consists of 1 t-shirt, 1 mug, 1 pin and 1 rubber cable organizer.

merchandise from WWF Indonesia

Here is how you can win it:
1. Follow @WWF_ID (WWF Indonesia) and @FirstaDYI on twitter
2. Leave a comment below. Tell me about any experiences you’ve had with elephants. Tell me about how cool elephants are or share with me elephantastic things! Don’t forget to mention your twitter user ID.
3. Tweet this: 5 Reasons Why Elephants are so Cool! http://discoveryourindonesia.com/elephants-are-so-cool/ | Get a chance to win merchandise from @WWF_ID #NasibGajah cc. @FirstaDYI

Closing date: 12 April 2015. Best of luck!

P.S. I’ll be sharing my experience of this trip in two posts. In the next article I will share my experience visiting Tesso Nilo Flying Squad Camp at Tesso Nilo National Park.

If you are interested in booking accommodation for your holiday in Indonesia I recommend Airbnb. Book through this link to receive a special $25 discount. For hotel bookings I recommend Agoda for its low price and discounts.