The Indonesian island of Bali is famous for its tropical beaches, rice fields and forests that touch the clouds, but it can also be considered home to 29 Sumatran elephants living peacefully on this island after being rescued.
Nigel Mason, owner of adventure tourism company Mason Adventures and founder of a Sumatran elephant sanctuary, told Anadolu Agency: “26 years ago, we started in our park to rescue a number of elephants that were captured and were languishing in government camps in Sumatra until they almost died.”
He added that the park (reserve) was able to raise awareness of the elephant species that are already threatened with extinction, and “allowed the establishment of a successful breeding program here in Bali.”
He continued, “Our park currently includes 29 healthy elephants in good hands.” The facility recently underwent “the annual special audit of the (Asian Captive Elephant Standards) group concerned with evaluating the safety of elephants living under human care, for the fourth year in a row, and again obtained the approval A high rating represented by the gold level.
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** Sanctuary from Extinction
Asked about criticism from animal rights activists, Mason replied: “There will always be comments from animal activists because of misinformation, fantasy and of course emotion.”
He stressed that the facility is the first park in Asia to obtain a gold standard from the “Asian Captive Elephant Standards” group.
And he added, “This park saved the lives of many elephants who were dying, and so far they have three children. It also helped educate thousands of people about the plight of these elephants.”
The Asian Captive Elephant Standards group “works with governments, the tourism industry and elephant owners to raise the standard for the welfare, safety and management of elephants in human care throughout Southeast Asia,” according to its website.
“We are the only elephant facility in all of Indonesia that meets these criteria,” Mason continued. “Without parks like ours, there is little hope for the endangered Sumatran elephants as their numbers decline.”
Indonesia has no more than 800 Sumatran elephants, according to Mason.
“Emotion and baseless complaints do no good for the elephants. Only action can help to remedy this situation,” he added.
** Taking care of elephants
Wayne Linney, a representative of the Mason Elephant Park, told Anadolu Agency that the park was established in 1997 by Nigel Mason and his family.
She explained that the facility’s area is four hectares (9.9 acres) and is home to “endangered Sumatran elephants, 6 of which were born naturally in the park.”
She added that once visitors enter the park, they can see that the environment is “carefully curated to imitate the original habitat of the Sumatran elephant, which originates from the island of Sumatra (far western Indonesia).”
With thousands of trees in the facility, Lenny noted that there are at least 30 different types of palm trees and also a roaming area for pairs of elephants to breed.
She pointed out that elephants have a lifespan like humans: “The Sumatran elephant can live until it reaches 70 or 80 years.”
Regarding the morning routine of the Sumatran elephants, she said that they start the day with a bath and then move on to breakfast.
With a laugh, she explained that they “consume about 250 kilograms of food per day.”
** Effects of the Corona pandemic
Tourism accounts for more than 50 percent of Balinese economy, and the Corona pandemic caused the closure of Mason Park for more than two workers, which resulted in economic pressures.
“Throughout the two-and-a-half years of coronavirus lockdown I personally put all my savings and took out a debt from the bank to feed and care for the elephants,” Mason explained.
He added that the cost of feeding and caring for elephants exceeds $35,000 per month, stressing that what the park needs most is “money”, as it does not receive any government or commercial support and is fully funded by his family and visitors to the park.
“We’ve had no visitors or income in the two-and-a-half years of the coronavirus lockdown,” Mason said.
According to the Mason Garden website, one of the rescued elephants, Ramona, was a very accomplished painter, and some of her artwork was sold by Christie’s in New York.
The site indicated that Mason and his team rescued and brought 10 elephants from Sumatra to Bali in October 2004, and their journey was filmed by an Australian film company under the name “Operation Jumbo.”
Many prominent personalities visited the park, including Hollywood stars, politicians, athletes and businessmen.