Foreign students get up
close and personal with
Sumatran elephants

Five foreign students are practicing their personal relations with Sumatran elephants at the Seblat Elephant Conservation Center in Bengkulu province, Sumatra.

The center’s coordinator, Erni Suyanti, said on Wednesday that the foreign students were part of a wildlife conservation program set up by Dejavato, a volunteer-based organization in Semarang, Central Java.

"Dejavato recently started the volunteer program for wildlife conservation, and the Seblat center was the only site recommended," she said in Bengkulu as quoted by Antara news agency.

The volunteers came from France, Russia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Belgium, she said.

Not only does the organization accept foreign students and professionals from abroad, but also from within the country.

"In addition to the six foreign students, there are two Indonesian students who want to work and learn together," Erni said.

The students study during the course of seven days how an elephant tamer, locally known as a mahout, takes care of the elephants.

They also assist the elephant tamer in feeding and bathing the 19 elephants at the center.

"They are also taking care of Bona, a two-year-old elephant calf, which is still being fed milk," Erni said.

The present batch of students is the third since the conservation program began. The Seblat center will receive its next group of volunteers in July.

Apart from taking care of the elephants, the foreign students also provide foreign language courses for Seblat center staff.

Erni said such courses were particularly beneficial for forest police personnel and the Seblat center elephant tamers.

"We are setting this place up as one of the ecotourism areas in Bengkulu. So, foreign language skills will be necessary for elephant tamers and forest police officers," she said.

The foreign students would write a report on conservation programs in Indonesia, including the one at the Seblat center, once they returned to their respective home countries, she said. (mtq)

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