Elephants

Baby Bona Finding Strength

The story of Bona finding her strength.

This photo is available on the online store as a print. The proceeds go a long way in Sumatra to support this work.

Bona’s family of 7 adults fell prey to the poisonous fruits placed by palm oil farmers. These poisonous fruits are there to prevent “pests” from disturbing the farms. It is true. To the locals elephants are considered PESTS!
Within a 24 hour period Bona had lost her mother and entire herd of 7 adults. Bona was only saved by the fact that she was only 6 months old at the time and was not yet eating solids.

After 3 days of wandering through the palm oil plantations lost and alone Bona was finally rescued and brought to a government run elephant conservation center in Bengkulu, Sumatra specifically organized for “problem elephants” that come into conflict with locals and enter villages.

Bona’s First 6 months was a tumultous period of attempting to find her the right supplements for her milk. Early attempts from locals were not successful and Bona suffered from severe malnutrition until the right formula was found from Australia. Bona’s transformation from near death to a healthy young girl in the space of only a few months was amazing to witness and to personally take on the responsibility of hand raising Bona for 7 months, feeding 4 times a day and often having Bona waking me up at 5am for breakfast. This is something that will last with me forever.

This particular photo was taken during the first two weeks of attempting the new milk formula for Bona. You can see how malnourished Bona is and see her bone structure. This is a very personal photo for me. Bona had attached herself to her surrogate mother Aswita at the elephant conservation center. Every afternoon the elephants are taken across the river to collect their food for the night. In the early days Bona was too weak to follow across the river. So still feeling the raw sense of abandonment from losing her entire family, Bona would stand as close to the river as possible and simply wail and scream at the top of her lungs at Aswita. She could not handle at all being left alone for even 5 minutes. Aswita would also respond in kind, as if to say “just hold on for a minute, I will be right back”.

To sit there and listen to a 1 year old elephant scream at the top of her lungs is a guttural and heart breaking sound to experience. So to me this photo brings me right back to that moment. I can still hear the cries today. But of course Bona is now a very strong and healthy 7 year old and crossing the river on her own is now just part of her daily ritual.

This print is now available on the online store. Any support for my work is much appreciated where proceeds go to our elephant projects and documentary photography book Elephants of Sumatra – The Final Stand.

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Aerial View

Electric Fence / Breeding Program

This is the layout from the air for the electric fence and the grass plantations to be used for food stock for the elephants.

This is actually going to provide a number of solutions for the elephants of PLG Seblat. For those disagreeing with a breeding program, I truly believe you do not even know what you are disagreeing with. So please have an open mind and listen to these words or for further details see the link in the bio.

First off we are all in the same boat, we want what is best for these elephants and this solution is purely to improve their lives as priority number 1. Secondly if you disagree with this then you need to hear the other option. For 25 years these elephants have been wrapped in chains and every evening after their daily baths they are chained to trees in separate locations away from each other with no opportunity to socialize with their herd, to be free of chains and no opportunity if given the chance to breed. To continue with that unfortunate scenario is not an option in my opinion. So due to the circumstances of having to be in this elephant conservation camp (see link in bio for info or follow along here for more info) these elephants deserve a better quality of life and that is what this project will provide. Inside this enclosure every night they will be 1) FREE OF CHAINS. 2) BE ABLE TO SOCIALIZE AS A HERD. 3) HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BREED. 4) ULTIMATELY HAVE A BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE.

This is not a

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Achievements

On location delivering elephant conservation projects in PLG Seblat, Bengkulu. Projects that are officially supported and signed off on in an MoU by the government of Indonesia. You cannot tell by this photo how many rejections it took to get to this position. How many meetings, the time taken to work through all the loopholes. How many years of working through the system just to get here. This is actually years in the making this photo. Me in my official NGO tee actually achieving things and implementing projects at many points I never thought would be possible. Working through the doubters, the haters and the trolls. I could have easily given up and just focused on my photography but that will always be there. Starting from scratch creating my own local NGO with my Indonesian wife to finding enough funds and working through the system and juggling both not knowing if success will come. That is a stressful position to be in and a definite swim against the tide. I am committed to doing my part for these precious animals. It is only a small part but step by step we can implement projects that will help turn things around for the elephants of Sumatra. I thank you all for following along to this point. It only gets better from here. X

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TO SUPPORT OR DONATE FOLLOW THESE LINKS OR LINK IN BIO

Donate online > elephantsofsumatra.com
Support the many elephant projects > berdiri.org
Support the elephants of Sumatra documentary photography project > patreon/brucelevick

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Ucok Impatient

Ucok the BIG boy is GROWING impatient about the new electric fence plan where he will get to mingle with the rest of the herd free of chains. Two things about this photo and I have highlighted one of them. Small steps to creating a better environment for the elephants of PLG Seblat and the creation of an electric fence will allow the elephants to be free of chains and secondly to mingle creating the potential for breeding. Ucok is not wanting to wait any longer. As you can see. Details on how you can support below.

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TO SUPPORT AND BUY PRINTS

shop for elephants > elephantsofsumatra.com?support the projects > berdiri.org?support this photography project > patreon/brucelevick

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Home Away from Home

On a two week rotation in the jungles of Sumatra. This is home away from home for elephant handlers and forest police working side by side in the Way Kambas National Park (camp Bungur) to help protect the precious habitat that is home to some of the most endangered species on the planet. Including of course the wild Sumatran elephant herds still calling the national park home. Daily patrols venture out to track illegal activity and locate wild elephant herds to make sure they do not enter into nearby villages. This is a crucial activity to help maintain any kind of harmony and prevent human/elephant conflict. For 2 weeks at a time this is called home until the next rotation of elephant handlers and forest polica arrive.

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The Way She Was

The first week with Bona she was a scary sight. She couldn’t have been more than a few weeks away from death in her state. She was literally lifeless, could hardly walk and had no spirit. Her spirit was certainly drained. Literally you could see every bone in her body as she struggled from A to B. After 6 months of sugar water provided by the locals as a supplement for milk I guess it was to be expected. Thankfully Bona took to our supplements, a mixture of baby milk formula, marsupial milk replacer (Wombaroo) combined with coconut milk hot water a dose of love and 7 months later of hand feeding this gorgeous girl the rewards are priceless and nothing will ever take away that prode of knowing my actions saved a this gorgeous girls life.

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Camouflage Camera Traps

Our attempts to camouflage camera traps were met with mixed results. Poachers and loggers have an appetite for destruction if they spot a camera.

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Radio Collar Tracking

The FZS (Frankfurt Zoological Society) have been running some successful projects in the Jambi region of Sumatra. One of those being the tracking of wild elephants through the use of radio collars. By attaching a radio collar to one elephant in a herd the FZS team can effectively track the entre herd and can act quickly in the event the herd might get too close to a village. This helps prevent human/elephant conflict and further deaths of the critically endangered Sumatran elephant.

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Road Block

When you are on the way to a remote location to set camera traps and your patrol team come across a river full of water hyacinth plants for 2 kilometers. It took us 24 hours to meander our way through this mess to finally be on our way to our destination. Extending our trip by another 2 days we managed to get all cameras in place.

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Wild Elephants of Way Kambas

A gorgeous herd of wild elephants make their way across the Way Kambas National park in the early morning hours captured on the Berdiri (http://www.berdiri.org) camera traps.

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