Make a difference, Help save the Asian elephant
April 17, 2013

Help The Asian Elephant

We can not let these gentle creatures fade away and disappear from the face of the planet. 

Learn more about how you can help other elephant conservation efforts at the Zoo by Supporting the Flying Squad. Send donations made out to the 

El Paso Zoological Society
P.O. Box 10179
El Paso, Texas 79995

Elephant Flying Squad

In 2004, WWF introduced the first Elephant Flying Squad to Riau Province in central Sumatra, to a village near the newly established Tesso Nilo National Park. It was a way to bring short-term relief to the intense conflict between people and elephants there and to create support for elephant conservation among hard-hit communities. 

The El Paso Zoo has been the number one zoo sponsor of the World Wildlife Fund Flying Squad and a supporter of conservation efforts at Tesso Nilo National Park since the first Elephant Festival at the Zoo raised funds for conservation efforts in Sumatra in 2002. Today the El Paso Zoological Society Conservation Fund supports the Flying Squad effort on an annual basis. Zoo visitors are encouraged to donate to the Zoological Society so that the Zoo can continue to support the squad and increase its support in the years to come. 

Because the region around Tesso Nilo is being logged so rapidly and the forest converted into agricultural plantations, elephants with no place to go are forced to wander in search of food, making farms and commercial plantations an irresistible temptation for elephant-sized appetites. 

An Elephant Flying Squad consists of nine rangers with noise and light-making devices, a pick-up truck and four trained elephants that drive wild elephants back into the forest whenever they threaten to enter villages. It has proven to be very effective in reducing losses suffered by local communities near Tesso Nilo. 

Flying squads have a long history in India and other places, but had not been used in central Sumatra before. WWF recruited leaders, mahouts (trainers) and elephants from elephant camps that the Indonesian government maintains. These nine men and four elephants went through intensive training to create bonds and make them effective as a team to drive back wild elephants. 

The project has been so successful that companies working in the area are starting their own Elephant Flying Squads to protect their crops from wild elephant raids. 

Facts about the
Elephant Flying Squad
Four elephants (two male, two female) Eight mahouts (trainers) and one leader The elephants were selected from those housed at the government-run Minas Elephant Camp, where provincial officials keep "problem" elephants that have been captured during human-elephant conflict. They were chosen for their size, strength, health and bravery. 

The squad operates in Lubuk Kembang Bunga village, on the southeast border of Tesso Nilo National Park in Sumatra. Since May 2006, the squad lives and works together in a permanent camp built on the outskirts of the park so that the elephants and men can bond into a cohesive team. 

How they operate:
Establishment of the flying squad is part of a commitment WWF made to the local village to help protect their crops from elephant raids before the national park was established. The squad is on-call 24 hours a day, but the normal routine is to conduct patrols by elephants and vehicles several times each week. 

The squad uses a variety of techniques to drive off crop-raiding elephants. Mahouts will first set off noisemakers to scare away the elephants, using "cannons" made of PVC pipes loaded with carbide that makes a loud boom when lit. If this does not work, the mahouts use trained elephants to drive the wild elephant back to the forested area.