Responsible Tourism & Ethical Elephant Experiences

Mother and calf - ethical tourismOn World Elephant Day, Trunks & Leaves is challenging travelers and travel companies alike to commit to responsible tourism practices when it comes to viewing and interacting with Asian elephants.

 For the first time in recent history, the world has slowed down, the travel industry is on hold, and humankind has a chance to reflect on the way we’re doing things and how we can improve in the future – for both humans and wildlife.

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Mating pandemonium

Leakey mounts

Leakey, one of the largest old bulls to appear in the Samburu population, mates with Nicky of The Artists.

Male elephants continue to grow throughout their lives, getting bulkier and broader. Older males enjoy a greater competitive advantage and higher reproductive success. Many have a characteristic time of year when they are seeking mates, and as they get older they increasingly advertise their state with strong-smelling chemical signals in their urine and temporal secretions in a condition termed ‘musth’. Younger bulls, who don’t appear to be signaling consistently or at all, may also try their chances when a receptive female is available.  But they are prone to being chased off by the bigger, more dominant males.

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Elephants, engineers of the forest

October 2012

Who dunnit?  Which animals are responsible for planting seeds throughout the forest?

Who dunnit? Which animals are responsible for planting seeds throughout the forest?

My next stop is the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus, where I meet my colleague and friend Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz.  A Spanish transplant in Malaysia, Ahimsa has spent the past year with great gusto setting up MEME (Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants).  I recognize the energy, it’s the same enthusiasm shared by Benoit and George, my current supervisor. What all these people have in common is a firm belief in what they do, a single-minded determination that appears never to falter. Truly something to behold. Continue reading

Borneo by boat

October 2012

Sukau, Sabah province – Borneo, Malaysia

Farina_boatSukau is a sleepy little town on the eastern side of Sabah, tucked along the Kinabatangan river.  What brought me here is an unlikely acquaintance made via Facebook.  A few years ago I got a message from one Nurzhafarina Othman saying she was studying the social organization of Bornean elephants, and she had come across my thesis – could I answer some questions for her? Of course, I said, and so began a little exchange of emails about studying elephants.  I grew curious to meet Farina, who seems an unlikely candidate to be traipsing around the forest given her otherwise conservative Malay Muslim background.  Since I too come from the Sri Lankan Malay community, it seemed we had a lot in common.  Little did I know. Continue reading