Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Elephant burial place in tropical rainforest of Kelantan

Whenever I get to visit the Malaysian jungle, I always prepare myself to see and experience something different. It is a big part of any adventure. Seeing different flora and fauna of different shapes and sizes is all exciting but nothing quite prepared me when I first saw an actual elephant ‘burial’ site in Kelantan.

I would prefer to call in an event rather. I have seen it on TV in far off places like Africa but never thought I’d see it here in Malaysia! It was during a field trip in May 2008 with nature guides John Chan and Yen that I experienced this ‘event’.

None of us planned to see this elephant burial site. The trip was so impromptu that I wasn’t sure if there’s even a plan to begin with. All I know was we are going to some caves in Kelantan and then Taman Negara via the Merapoh entry.

We first arrived in Gua Musang. This is when John got in touch with a local fellow nature guide. After some chatter and over a plate of ‘roti canai’ we were off to Gua Pintu. It is here that we told about the elephant burial site.

The elephant remains near Gua Pintu

This place gives me the goose bumps I lie you not. The sight of these huge bones and other remains is both scary and magnificent at the same time. According to the locals, this particular site has been the burial ground for at least 2 adult elephants.

Most of the remains have either rotted away or being stolen by other animals. The news of this burial ground traveled fast and soon, more and more people came to have a look. As a result, the place gets more ‘intruders’ and some of the elephant remains start to go missing. So, the good local villagers took it upon themselves to protect this special place. They got together, formed a local ‘care taker’ and invested some money in putting up a fence to keep animals (and humans) from disturbing whatever is left of the remains.

A fence was built to stop more of the remains from going missing

This elephant burial site stole the show. I don’t think if there is any other such site in Malaysia that offers this. I related this to the accompanying guide and he told me some parties are suggesting changing the Gua Pintu (Door Cave) name to Gua Gajah Mati (Dead Elephant Cave). The elephant burial site is really awesome but to change a cave’s name just because of that would be rather extreme I reckon.

No one knows exactly how or why the elephants chose that particular place. Perhaps it is the cave. But locals belief that area has long been the chosen place. An ageing jumbo would come to the site when the time is right. It will then lean on one of them trees and slowly slump to its last breath. This was the tree purportedly ‘leaned’ down by the last elephant that lay to rest here.

Can it be that a dying elephant leaned on this tree?

I am not sure if the tree part is true or not. But…if I were to describe the place, I would say it’s an eerie place with a peaceful feeling to it. It’s a place that will give you the goose bumps without actually scaring you away. It’s a sad yet magical place for such an astonishingly beautiful land creature to call the resting place.