Sustainability, Ethics & Environmental Conservation: Sumatra’s Rainforests & Sumatran Elephants. (A personal – and researched – ‘article’).


There is a lot of debate about the Mason Taro Lodge in Bali, so when my partner Ollie, booked us a surprise three-day stay at this elephant Sanctuary, I kept an open mind. I actually found that when you really have to experience, research and take in what is going on at the park before you make any snap judgments on what this park represents: it isn’t necessarily the ‘cruel’ elephant tourism some expect, but it is definitely not the wild habitats these elephants deserve! This article goes in depth into the pros and cons of the elephant park in Bali.

  Please take time to read this page and including the linked documents attached throughout, to really understand the bigger picture that has brought these elephants to Bali, and that has led to the development of this quite uniquely, but controversial Elephant park in Bali. 



So, let’s get started: My visit to the park has inspired me to write about ethical tourism and wildlife conservation: with a focus on critically endangered Sumatran elephants (from Sumatra, Indonesia). This endangered species caught my attention during our visit to the Mason Elephant lodge in Taro, Bali: this was definitely an opportunity for a very personal & educational experience of these Asian elephants and insight into ‘what could be considered ’ethical” elephant tourism,’ in South East Asia. I will never forget getting a chance to interact and connect with these gorgeous gentle giants, but I will also never forget the emotional process I went through trying to figure out if this park was a good enough environment for them!

After having done my research, I would also like to give an overview of how Lodge has been such a sanctuary to these elephants; to explain the complex issues that have led to their rescue; specifically, the threats and risks that they face in the wild, and in the context of a country with rapid deforestation. My writing provides an overview of the conditions the elephant’s experience at the park, detailing; their ethical treatment and care, their daily routines and activities, the conditions and inbuilt habitat at the park, and the relationships between elephants and keepers (or mahouts). I’ve assessed the Mason Elephant Lodge, in Taro, with examples of what constitutes as ‘ethical elephant treatment’  and to explore the degree of ethical elephant tourism: there is definitely a case, for a positive degree of care experience at the park, the humans working these animals are highly dedicated to their welfare, which is perhaps also restricted by the restrictions of the environment that they have come to live in. Having said the park does proudly support promote and educate on their conservation. I have read a lot of the reports online about the park and I would like to give a balanced view of it.

Also, please note that since writing this article, I have had some great email conversations with the founder director and owner of the park, and a great and informative response to my feedback and queries! I have included links to documents with our email dialogues at the end of the article! (We went in 2017, his emails have recent updates about the park for 2018 -19)!


 Understanding the impact of human development on wildlife habitat and ecological conservation is important, in order to shift the focus towards sustainable development and practices that prevent the destruction of nature; it also gives a contextual overview of why critically endangered Sumatran elephants have been rehomed in captivity at the Mason Elephant Lodge. This park has inspired my writing about the wider environmental and wildlife conservation issues in Indonesia, Sumatra, and about these elephants. Please see the documents on this linked below, before continuing with the article:


Threats, Risks & Sustainable Solutions.

Threats to the Sumatran elephants and their natural habitat. Sustainable Goals, the Sumatran context.

Sustainability: ‘’humanities target goal of human – [wildlife]– ecosystem equilibrium.

Please see link 1:




The Significance of Global Environmental Sustainability (habitat impact) and Ethics of Animals in Captivity.

Link 2:






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The Mason Elephant Lodge accommodates 31 stunning, rescued Sumatran elephants. It took an impressive amount of dedication, two years of negotiations, and considerable cost to rescue the parks last ten elephants from Sumatra. – Each elephant cost US$10, 000 to rescue – and were transported over three thousand kilometres to their new home in Taro village, Bali. These elephants were rescued from underfunded government training camps in Sumatra, which lacked the funds to ensure their welfare. The elephants had been in restrictive conditions, affecting their health and well-being. They now live in this lush oasis of forest in Bali, within a 4 acres sanctuary: with professional care, an abundant supply of food, medical care,  and where they get plenty of exercises.



The Sanctuary ‘’follows the ‘5 freedoms of Animal Welfare’ established in Great Britain in 1965:

The “Five Freedoms”

It is now recognised and understood that all vertebrate animals can experience pain, suffering, and distress (source: EU Amsterdam Treaty 1997); that they all have specific inherent needs, regardless of their circumstances that will ensure their well-being and survival.

As a minimum all animals need:

  1. Food and water
    2. A suitable living environment
    3. Good health
    4. An opportunity to exhibit natural behaviours.
    5. Protection from fear and distress.

These are commonly known as the “Five Freedoms”.


The park has been recognised by the international community and numerous animal Welfare organisations, including by the Geographic Society (as a welfare supporting organisation), and the World Wildlife Foundation (as a partner in conservation).’’ [2].

The Sumatran elephant’s welfare is the priority for the lodge, the park has clearly implemented a high standard of care for these gorgeous Sumatran elephants. The elephant care and management considers their basic needs; physical activity, socialisation, nutrition, rest & sleep, and cognitive stimulation is are integral to their daily routines, at the park. Their new home has been designed to mimic their original natural habitats and is well maintained. Positive training techniques are used to work safely with these animals, they are constantly fed and rewarded, and although this is a tourist attraction, people who come are involved in their care. Most of all this conservation project has provided them with a safe and healthy existence and protection from the world that they left behind, rapidly declining Sumatran Forests and the government training from which they were rescued.


‘’Humane treatment of animals (both ex-situ and in the field) remains a clear ethical obligation of ‘zoo-based’ scientists and professionals as well as field researchers. It is an obligation formalized in the ethical codes of the major professional and scientific societies, such as the AZA and the Society for Conservation Biology.’’ [14. p45].

Regarding ethics of animals in ‘captivity,’ there are many factors to consider, including enclosure complexity and environmental enrichment, group size and composition, training, safety, veterinary care, nutrition etc. when evaluating the quality of any elephant management program.’’ [14. P.46].


In the case of elephant conservation in Bali’s Elephant sanctuary, the design of the park is particularly standout, with incredible attention to their inbuilt environment and habitat. The park is set in 4 hectares and was ‘’carefully landscaped to mimic – as much as possible – the original environment of the elephant’s previous home in Sumatra. The location of the lodge has been chosen due to its cooler climate, and a more tropical climate.’’ [2. Nigel Mason]. Nigel Mason explains in interview, that ‘’even the surface that they walk on is not concrete, it is a particular mix with sandstone, to mimic hardback soil, so that it doesn’t hurt their feet.’’ [15]. The park has done its best to create a close to natural and pristine environment for the elephants. Nigel Mason also explains that, ‘’they walk around 15 kilometres a day, in the wild, they do about thirty.’’ Exercise is very important for their health, as it is good for ‘’bone density,’’ ‘’digestion,’’ and the ‘’conditions of their feet.’’ [15.]


Considering that Bali is a small country and that the once abundant rainforest across Indonesia, is severely diminished and continues to be, finding the space for these rescued creatures was clearly a challenge. Therefore, unfortunately, the park had great restrictions for the construction of their habitat. Neil Mason explains, ‘’it’s because Bali is a small island with a high population, and generally most of the land is already cultivated.’’ The government regulations involved have had to consider the surrounding villages, as well as the safety of the staff and guests,’ this meant complex regulations for the construction and management of the park.


’The government also has a duty of care to its people, and to the protection of local communities and the forests around them.’


Ideally, these elephants would be in a semi-wild environment of course! However, on a positive note, elephants at the park are mentally stimulated, well socialised, nurtured, active and extremely well fed. During the day, the elephants get plenty of exercise during their daily activities (when they are not chilling out and eating tonnes of green vegetation; bundles of leaves, baby bamboo, and baskets of fruit that are ‘served’ them throughout the day).’ Staying at the park for three days, we got to witness this in person. …The very unique circumstances of these sadly critically endangered species make it easier to understand why they have been given this new home and why it has been designed and organised in this way.”


View from the elephant park. 


The article ‘’Ecological Ethics in Captivity: Balancing Values and Responsibilities in Zoo and Aquarium Research under Rapid Global Change,’’ considers when and whether it is fair to keep an animal from its natural – wild, habitat (especially when a man-made environment is restrictive, and may inhibit their natural instincts, freedom and wellbeing. It references; ‘’for many wildlife biologists and conservationists, breeding and conservation-oriented research on captive wildlife are seen as essential activities, that should not be halted on the basis of animal welfare and animal rights objections. The ethical imperative to save threatened species from further decline and extinction in the wild may [have] for [some] a priority over concerns regarding individual animal welfare.’’ [14. P.45-46]. Where the treatment of this is damaging to their well-being this is unacceptable.

Animal conservation ‘arbitrary weight to human preferences, [and interests], simply because they are anthropocentric in nature,’’ is unacceptable. [14. P.45].

In the case of the elephant lodge, the rescue was based on intent to protect these animals, restore their well-being and offering them sanctuary from unsafe conditions, threatening their wellbeing. Considering the government training camps where they were kept in neglectful conditions –they are indeed, better off in this inbuilt environment, where they are given security and well looked after. The park had been designed and managed to allow them a positive and active way of life. It was limited in its capacity to provide them with a semi-wild environment however it has done an amazing job at creating a positive life for them at the park.



 (Including Personal Experience and Insights, at the Elephant Mason Lodge).

Sumatran Elephants, Relationships and Interaction with the Mahout: Learning & Communication.

‘’The elephants are such peaceful creatures, and the Balinese people are just as zen!’’

From what we saw the elephants and their keepers had developed a symbiotic relationship (rather than an exploitative one). We witnessed their peaceful communications with each other. We’d often see the mahout casually perched on their elephant’s back: chilled out and sometimes almost meditative in the sunshine! Perhaps, it was the elephants’ elegant rocking walk, sending them into a zen state of relaxation!? We also watched the elephants contently follow their mahout to the feeding bays. The Mahout casually walked off in front, sometimes not even looking back to check if they were following – they were – there was a lot of trust between them! – This appeared natural.

(In fact, it looked like a domesticated dog happily following its owner without a lead. Elephants are herd animals, so to see them follow their Mahout with whom they have great bonds with, appeared bizarrely natural).

Staying at the park really special, because you get a chance to witness how both mahout and elephant behave together when taking a break from their park activities. As a staying guest, you get a chance to take in beautiful moments between the elephants and mahouts.

Working with Elephants: Ethical Training Methods.

‘’Elephant care, management considers all their basic and social needs; integrating physical activity, socialisation, nutrition, rest & sleep, medical care, security and ensuring cognitive stimulation throughout their daily routines.’’

In interviews, Nigel Mason, assures that the elephants training methods rely on positive reinforcement: ‘’We do not use brutal or cruel methods, all training is by repetition, reward and patience.’’ [2. N, Mason]. These elephants seemed really happy. The Sumatran elephants responded well to verbal instruction. Whilst each mahout rewarded their elephants with tropical fruit, and gentle pats on the head (and involve the guests in this reward system). It was quite like watching a well-trained dog with their owner (…just a large Sumatran elephant responding to their keeper).

‘’Elephants are highly intelligent animals and they learn very quickly, they are also strong and agile.’’ So, they do have the capacity to learn tricks. [4].  Positive-reinforcement -training in the parks activities, allows them to use their strength, agility and stimulates them daily.

To me what is important here is that the elephants don’t get forced to work constantly. I observed this and I could see they get so many breaks, and as well as physical and mentally stimulating activities, they get relaxing activities.

~ Activities with people at the park, including washing them and bathing with them. Washing them is was definitely a lovely part of their care! See this review from a trip advisor:

”We got up close and personal to Zoe a young elephant by giving her a good scrub and hose down lasting about 25 minutes. She was very content, there were no chafe marks from chains or harnesses on her body. Her keeper obviously adored her, and she responded to his every request whilst happily munching away on a big stack of leaves and palm shoots.” Debra – West Sussex.

Positive Training Techniques.

I researched positive reinforcement training methods, to understand more about how they teach and train the rescued elephants, without impacting their well-being. Positive training techniques include treat pouches, target poles (a wooden stick used as a reference point for the elephants), elephant training guides (detailed later) …. and of course, ‘the most powerful tool that keepers can have when training elephants, is their positive relationship with the elephants!’ [4].


According to the ‘Taronga Elephant Training’ webpage: ‘’The relationship between mahout and elephant is key…Having a genuine, loving relationship with the elephants is crucial to working with elephants. Elephants are very social and affectionate, and they respond well when training is positive and fun for both keepers and the elephants.’’ [4. Taronga]. As visitors observing the interaction between them at the Mason Elephant Lodge, the relationships between ‘elephant and mahout’ was lovely to witness.

There is a great level of transparency at the park, even in its design, the Mahout and staff we spoke to were very open about the elephants, and their care. Everything going on in the park is within the view of guests: guests can observe the mahout and elephants all day, they can lunch and have dinner with the elephants in view, and the can even elephants be observed from guest’s rooms at night.

The elephants feeding stations were out in the open, and really well-spaced out. This area was their rest stop! A good break from their daily activities, guest interactions, and walks! When there are taking breaks they have plenty of opportunities to eat their fill, and ensure that they were taking in their daily 250 kilos of food! (We could see a frequent supply of palm and coconut leaves were delivered to them, all day and all evening, during our stay).


I did have my reservations at seeing them chained at their feeding positions when first entered the park (for safety reasons). Since they were always occupied with eating here, and given the chance to rest, it didn’t seem as bad as it first looked. Also, I quite liked that the elephants were even taken to different areas of the park for their feeding sometimes, for a good ‘change of scenery!?’ Also as Ollie pointed out, their legs had ‘’no markings or scars from the chains,’’ (keeping them at their feeding posts)! We also watched the elephants casually and elegantly lift their legs, up so that their mahout could effortlessly slip chains around their ankles: having undergone ongoing ethical elephant training. This actually seemed like something the elephants were quite accustomed to.

Elephant Communication.


Elephants are sentient beings, they are ‘’emotional creatures’’ and ‘‘express emotions of joy, sadness, fear and anger’’ [13]. (They have been ‘’observed grieving the death of other elephants).’’ So, as you can imagine they are naturally sensitive and even responsive to human emotion. When the keepers, and staff interact with the elephants they approach them with calm, positive verbal tone, expression, and body language. [25].

We heard one of the female elephants that we rode with, make an excited ‘squeaking’ sound, as she reached her trunk out to touch another female beside her. The mahout recognised her communication immediately, ‘this squeak was a playful, interactive gesture …’ On another occasion, I felt the elephant (Tia) vibrating underneath us: she ‘rumbled,’’ in communication with a female behind her. Her Mahout explained that the ‘’rumble’’ was Tia ‘’warning the female behind her to keep a better distance!’’ I looked back and the female elephant behind had slowed down slightly in response.

Amazing Elephants and humans have ‘unique bond. Knowsley Safari park. [25].

Elephant Daily Activities.

The park encourages the elephants’ play, learning, social interaction, and artistic ‘self-expression’ (apparently)! Ok, so an elephant waving around a paintbrush, kicking a football, and showering a group of guests with water feels perhaps a bit commercial – even a bit circus-like. However, ‘’in the wild elephants will often kick around coconuts or use sticks, pebbles and leaves to make pictures!!’’ [5]. (Incredible)! So, these activities do in many respects resemble their play in the wild.

‘’The activities at the park, are in many respects, relevant to the species, whilst giving them needed daily exercise, interaction and stimulation.

Elephants are incredibly smart.

‘’Elephants have been known to use sticks to scratch themselves in areas they couldn’t otherwise reach, and fashion fly swatters out of branches or grass. Others have been observed digging a hole to reach drinking water, and then plugging the hole with a ball formed from chewed bark to prevent the water from evaporating, thus saving it for later use.’’ [26].

These gorgeous Sumatran elephants paint and produce some fantastic abstract ‘elephant paintings.’  Proceeds from their paintings go directly towards elephant conservation for the remaining elephants still in government training camps in Sumatra.

Elephant – Human Social Interaction.


Naturally being very social creatures, it is nice to see that they have adapted to socialise well with people. The elephants have formed great relationships with their mahout, they have high levels of positive (and meaningful) interaction with them daily. Importantly, during their park activities, they do also get a level of socialisation with each other; they walk together, link trunks, lean on each other, bath together and you see and hear them communicating with one another. During their activities, they are constantly showed with positive attention and rewarded with fruit bowls (from both guests and mahout). They then return to their feeding area to chill in the sunshine; where they are left to graze undisturbed. We watched them from a distance happily reaching around with their elegant trunks, to scope up ‘trunk-fulls’ of food).

We spoke to many of the Mahout about their elephants. They’d been working with them from between 9 – 20 years.

Sumatran elephant Tia’s, mahout, Wayan, ‘’I’ve spent /more time with Tia than my wife…!

…Tia is my wife!’’

Health and Welfare in Elephant Riding.

It was important to me to understand the parks ethics; to understand how elephant riding respects elephant welfare. Elephant riding is generally considered an elephant tourism activity that has negatively impacted the welfare of elephants across Asia. However, elephant riding at the rescue lodge has been carefully considered, in order to ensure that the elephants are protected from harm.

Neil Mason explains that the elephant rides and pickups from the rooms are on ‘’specially designed light teak wood seats, that are heavily padded to cause no discomfort or injury to the elephants back.’’ They sit comfortably on the Sumatran elephants distinctively curved backs. Nigel Mason emphasizes that at the park, riding an elephant actually provides ‘’necessary exercise for the elephant’s muscles’’ and is part of their daily physical exercise!’’ [2]. – Personally, I felt a little bit uncomfortable about the riding, however, the main thing was this was a good way to exercise the elephants. 

Personally, I found was particularly wonderful that the mahout rides their elephants bareback. It’s very intimate, equal and that I found far more natural! It really is surreal and amazing to experience a mutual trust between these gentle Sumatran giants and people. Their bond very much resembles the bond between domesticated pet dogs with their owners back at home.

As a guest, if you chose to participate in the elephant bathing – you get this gorgeous intimate interaction with the elephant.


  • The moment, I felt most connected with these Sumatran beauties…when we washed them and road with them free from padded seats, and straps.

It was really surreal to interact with an elephant in this way, and in some respects feel as though I could possibly relate to it, in the same way, do my pet at home. Connected.


At first glance, it could be easy to judge the park, as across Asia many of the activities for elephant tourism do not respect the wellbeing of the elephants, unfortunately. ‘’Online I have seen comments, in which people have concluded that the park uses ‘’cruel’’ training methods with the elephants – some have talked about the harmful instrument that they use to control them at the park.’’ However, it is very easy to quickly jump to conclusions. I looked into the training techniques for elephants that are considered more ethical and harmless. The guide used are blunt guides, and ones I saw in Thailand 10 years ago, (which almost look like a pickaxe)!


We could see that the mahout sometimes carried the blunt elephant guides as a safety measure and training tool (with some of the elephants). We also only saw mahout use once the whole time we were there and he was quite gentle with it.

(The elephants have been at the park for years, they are very tame and well trained).

I asked a million questions to all the mahout, gaining a bigger picture of all their relationship with their elephants. Staying at the park for three days and talking with:  allowed us to discover how extremely knowledgeable they were. Overall, they had great attitudes towards their elephant companions. ‘My partner and I felt really happy with the treatment we witnessed (and had fun learning from with the mahout, as they guided us, to have safe and intimate interactions with their elephants)!

When the elephant picked us up from our room, its trunk reached automatically feeling around for the fruit we’d been given to treat her with. She felt around with that unique nose of her and quickly lifted the fruit down to take a bite.


Unfortunately, at the Lodge, there is a limit to the space provided, given restriction land use restriction. The elephants are not able to roam freely, which this means they cannot behave as part of a herd as they would in the wild. So there are of course limitations to the level of freedom given to the elephants in captivity.

‘’Elephants are extremely social animals, living in close-knit family groups of females and youngsters. Only the males leave the group in their teenage years and join herds for short periods for breeding.’’

The Mason Elephant Lodge has made the best possible use of space and created a well-designed environment, giving them a level of interaction with each other: The space includes an inbuilt lake for the elephants social bathing, a walking path through a stunning patch of natural jungle, and open and spacious feeding grounds were they are in communication distance from each other. The well-managed park activities do offer them a level of interaction, socialisation which each other. This may be an alternative way of life to the one that they would get in the wild, but the park has been well designed, well managed, and takes into consideration all of their needs. Fortunately, most of the Sumatran elephants appear to have done very well in this environment.

Sadly, however, there was a male elephant that I was a little concerned about, as I observed him at his feeding post, he often rocked backwards and forwards. ‘’Swaying is a common behavior of elephants in captivity and can be a sign of mental distress.’’ So, it makes it did make it really sad to see one of the elephants rocking in the sanctuary. Unfortunately, he has not been able to return to the wild. Of course, it’s sad to see this in any captivity situation. However, there is a reason for why this elephant was rehomed in this park. It is also relevant to point out that despite swaying in this way, we also observed his positive behavior throughout our stay. The staff made an equal effort with him (even though he did appear harder to handle)! He was well exercised, well fed, he appeared physically healthy and seemed to happily join in on elephant activities. – Signs that he wasn’t completely unhappy in his home…! This elephant, (Seng Wong) was in musth, a periodic condition in bull elephants (characterised by aggressive behaviour and high levels of testosterone). It may be also worth noting, that swaying can also be copied by elephants sometimes, and can sometimes be a habit, isn’t always stress related. 

I felt very strongly about this elephant when we arrived at the park. I sat down in the grass by him, and watched him at his feeding, and felt a wave of ”emotional connection – and actually sadness!” I have always been that ‘sensitive’ around animals. So, I kept a close eye on him, and that was before I had read into elephant captivity and the swaying behavior! – iI seems this would be quite an obvious reaction of an animal restricted in captivity.  I have seen animals whilst travelling in far more restrictive, and even cruel conditions.


After time at the park, and having a slight ”mental battle” with this, I did accept that this male has found a level of sanctuary at the park. He is most at risk in Sumatra being a male with such large tusks. – Elephants in Sumatra are widely hunted for ivory. There are reports of fathers and mothers killed, their babies left alive by their side. This is really sad and traumatic, for such social, family originated, and intelligent creatures.

I’d like to mention, that maybe the park could provide more information on their rescued male; including, on his behaviour.  I think, being well informed about how this elephant’s; background, personality, gender and biological (incl. hormonal considerations) and captivity may be affecting his behaviour, would be invaluable for guests… Understanding the bigger picture means people have a chance to assess his situation, knowing all variables. Educating the guests in a way that will help them to understand his background, behaviour, why he may be reacting in this way, and generally his care, would give people a balanced view of his life at the park.

Also, it may even be worth noting, that considering that this elephant had been kept in neglectful and even more restrictive conditions prior to his transfer to the park, it may even be that the elephant acquired this behaviour previously. When elephants are left on their own with no social contact, what’s so ever they are prone to depression – as they are highly social creatures. Another cause of this potentially ‘frustrated’ swaying, maybe due to being partially restricted from interacting with the herd of females (that graze around him – although there has been some in captivity breeding).

[I am hypothesising, I do not have the full facts, and profile on this individual elephant. It might be useful for them to make this info available at the park]!

 ‘’During our stay, I asked a member of staff, about this behaviour. The staff member was friendly and polite, he said that all of ‘’their elephants are very peaceful, playful & calm in nature, the male elephant has a very strong personality.’’

On a more personal note, I must also point out some positive and encouraging observations of this elephant  at the park (which we saw first-hand): The first night at the Lodge, we had dinner by the elephant bathing pool, and this same male elephant, casually followed behind his mahout who led him to the water; as the mahout stepped aside, the elephant peacefully waded into the waters in the moonlight! On our final day, we watched the male from our balcony. As his Mahout approached him, he casually lifted his bent foot up (we assumed at verbal instruction), to let his trainer climb on to his back; on this occasion, he was near one of the female elephants and lent on her with his trunk to help keep his balance. He was completely separated from the other elephants. I personally was quite drawn to this male, I wanted to know that he was ok. He’d moved to a guest feeding area for the day, on our final day at the park! So, I went over to give him a whole bowl of fruit, and he happily grabbed every piece from my hand with his trunk)! Finally, I’d also spoken to his mahout during our stay and he spoke really fondly of him. It was great to see that his mahout really cared.

Eventually, if possible, (ideally) these elephants would be rehomed once more, to a semi-natural environment with freedom to roam. 

Note: The Mason Elephant Lodge is home for these gorgeous elephants. As previously discussed there are very specific reasons for why these elephants were rescued and rehomed at the lodge; the park has clearly tried to compensate for the fact that they were not able to safely return to the wild, by creating the best possible environment for them. I personally recommend visiting and support this long-established and ethically run sanctuary in the jungle surroundings. It’s an opportunity to contribute to the lives of these Sumatran Elephants and of course to the locals involved in working with them. As a business, the park affords the upkeep of the elephants and the maintenance of their habitat and the lodge, it provides an income for local staff and educates visitors about this incredible – yet endangered species. Tourist contributions keep these Elephants safe. 

From what we could see the elephants looked really at home and happy. They came across as very peaceful and playful. The parks efforts were really encouraging. We had a good insight at the park, having a few significant days there. Having seen the positive interactions between mahout and elephant, and the significant interactions between elephants. My mind was at ease at seeing them in these conditions. The only comment I would make is that I do think I wanted to see more overall interaction amongst the elephants at the park. – So, I definitely encourage innovations, future development & potential park extension plans!”


Hopefully, future investments and park plans favor an extension of the park to a larger space where the elephants can retire.

 (…Although, this is more feasible if people are clearer on the specific care and methods used at the park whilst there, to help improve reviews, so that people are less dissuaded from supporting, visiting and contributing to the park).


Having investigated the history and stories behind why the elephants were been rehomed, now living in more captive conditions, and having observed the park and elephant care in person, I was to some degree reassured that these elephants were have found a safer home. It was also nice to see in person their positive relations with people at the park: despite not living in completely natural conditions. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t ideal to keep animals in captivity; but the reality is the elephants, as well as many other animal species, are being pushed out of their natural habitats and are becoming endangered around the world – for this reason, this ethical tourist park can be considered a sanctuary and the bigger predicament lies outside of the elephant parks walls: we need to address large-scale development and how that is affecting our planet most of all!


In terms of development, it is crucial that we shift from activities that destroy natural ecosystems and wildlife; and make it possible for us all to continue to safely coexist with natural environments intact to support this! The key focus should be to invest in addressing this global issue; whilst also envisaging positive future outlooks; and sustainable development progress. This requires collective, proactive, dedicated, and innovative development with a positive attitude. As this case of the elephants demonstrates prioritising conservation of the environment and wildlife is crucial. Solutions and practices, that address international imbalances and inequalities, and that prioritise short and longterm natural habitat and resource conservation goals are needed.

”When there is a positive balance, there is room for positive relations; including, between all species and our natural environment.”

                              SUMATRA’S NATURES FUTURE OUTLOOK.

I really hope that that increasing environmental conservation efforts across Sumatra and Indonesia might one day give the Sumatran Elephants back some of their natural habitats! Protected natural reserves are currently being negotiated and developed in Sumatra and throughout Indonesia, the efforts might not yet match that of the ever-increasing palm plantations just yet, however, we never know what the future holds! Hopefully, these efforts are the right steps towards creating conscious awareness and draw attention to the importance of protecting natural forests and wildlife in Sumatra (and across Indonesia)!? Hopefully, new and sustainable practices will be a big enough impetus for change.


I was very grateful that the park provided an opportunity to connect with these stunning Sumatran elephants; the chance to take part in their care, but also to educate ourselves on this species, and on important animal conservation and environmental issues. I appreciate the effort at the park to educate guests (and I am also extremely glad that I did my own research to get a more holistic understanding). We gained a really comprehensive overview – not only of the lodge and the rescued elephants history – but also on environmental and animal welfare history of Sumatra (South East Asia) during our time there.


~ Sustainable, natural, and safer global future. Animal welfare. Intent to achieve greater park-comments2 (2)reat note: A year later, Nigel Mason, has kindly taken the time to answer an email I sent him (and read every word of my article), please see his response (includes recent park developments and improvements (included extended space at the park):



I do have some comments on how I think it could further create a more natural and  ”tranquil vibe,” for people visiting the park, and in turn for the elephants! (Included in notes – Link 3 -below)!

#Animal welfare #Eco-Friendly Lodge #Conservation.



Future outlook for the Sumatran Elephants:

(In the wild and at the lodge)


(Please note link above this has not been updated since correspondance with Nigel Mason).





Research and Reference.

Deforestation & Wildlife:

J, Watts, 2013. The battle to save Sumatran elephants from extinction. CNN. [7].

R, A, Butler (2011). First large-scale map of oil palm plantations reveals big environmental toll. Montgabay, News and inspiration from nature’s frontline. [6].

  1. A. Bulter. 28/82012. Rainforests decline sharply in Sumatra, but rate of deforestation slows. Montgabay, News and inspiration from nature’s frontline. 28.8.2012. [8].

The Sumatran Rainforest will mostly disappear in the next 20 years. 2013.

L, Kalaugher, 2012. Mapping tropical forest loss in Sumatra. Environmental research web.

Montabay (2014). Elephant poaching soars as Sumatran forests turn into plantations.

Lush to save second piece of land to save Sumatra’s Rainforest. 2018. [11].

R.Hicks. Lush takes aim at Palm Oil Industry with SOS Sumatra Campaign. Eco-business. [12].

H, N, Jong. 2018. Indonesia launches bid to restore national park that’s home to tigers, elephants. [20].

Rainforest Trust. 2016. Protecting Sumatra’s Last Great Wilderness. [21].

                                                                 Sumatran Elephants:

WWF. [1].

J, Bonello. Sumatran Elephants listed as critically endangered. (WWF). [1].

Elephants Facts:

K, McComba., G,Shannona., C, Mossb. Elephants can determine ethnicity, gender, and age from acoustic cues in human voices. [25].

Note: Cynthia Mossb a Mammal Vocal Communication and Cognition Research, School of Psychology, University of Sussex.

Elephant Voices. How elephants communicate. [24].

Hullinger. J. 2017. Behaviors That Prove That Elephants Are Incredibly Smart. [26].

Sumatran Elephant: Incredible creature of Sumatran Island:

Taronga. [4].

  1. Elliot. Essay. Captive Asian Elephant Welfare: Recent Research into Training and Handling Methods.

J, Barclay, 2015. Elephants Are Much Like Humans. [13].

Debating the moral standing of animals and the environment; the ethicality of zoo, aquarium and conservation; rapid globalisation and climate change evolving the ethics of Ex Situ research:

Minteer., A & J, P, Collins. (2013). Ecological Ethics in Captivity: Balancing Values and Responsibilities in Zoo and Aquarium Research under Rapid Global Change. Volume 54, Number 1 ILAR Journal. [14].

G, Frei. 2016. Stereotypical behavior in Elephants: [16].

Sustainability: sustainable tourism.

Blomsley, T., et al. Land grabbing: is conservation part of the solution or the problem (2013). (BIODIVERSITY & ECOLOGY, CONSERVATION, HUMAN RIGHTS, LAND RIGHTS).

  1. Conney et al. 2018. Wildlife, wild livelihoods: involving communities in sustainable wildlife management and combating illegal wildlife trade. [8].

WWF: Indonesia,

Environment biodiversity conservation:

Thomas Cook. Animal Welfare. [18].

Global Footprints. HEC global Learning. What is sustainability?

Mason Elephant Lodge:

Company History. Mason Elephant Lodge. [22].

Bali’s only Dedicated Elephant Rescue Reserve. Mason Adventures. [2].

Nigel Mason. Mason Adventures.

Operation Jumbo. 2016. Brad and Bel. Available at: (Australian entrepreneur Nigel Mason’s rescue of ten endangered elephants from government training camps in Sumatra). [23].


A, Kellaway, Quosy. [10]. Image by Quosy.

R, Hamilton. 2008. Saving the Elephants of Sumatra. [17].

Bali Interiors. Mason Elephant Park & Lodge.

Down to earth. Animal welfare: an important challenge for sustainability.


Chris Atkins at Elephant Safari Park, Taro Bali: [15].

Nigel Mason. Elephant Training at Taro, Bali.

Amazing Elephants and humans have ‘unique bond. Knowsley Safari park. [26].

Mason Elephant Lodge Documentary:

Operation Jumbo. 2016. Brad and Bel. Available at:

News Reports for killings of Sumatran elephants:

Pearl, H. 2015. Slaughter of Sumatran elephants reaches a new high. News Vice.

Sumatran elephants killed in ‘revenge attack by plantation workers.

WWF. 2014. WWF Calls Government to Immediately Investigate Sumatran Elephant Death Cases.


Elephant Safari Park. [5.]

Other articles of interest:

R.Tapper, 2006. Wildlife Watching and Tourism. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) / Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

Intention and shifting reality:

E, J, Bourne. Does the world seem chaotic? Global consciousness is changing. [28].

Zyga, L. 2011. Scientists suggest spacetime has no time dimension. Phis Org.

Six steps to Activate the Power of Intention and create a new reality. practical ways to raise your positive vibration.

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2 thoughts on “Sustainability, Ethics & Environmental Conservation: Sumatra’s Rainforests & Sumatran Elephants. (A personal – and researched – ‘article’).

  1. I sent this ‘’personal article’’ to my previous tutor at uni, Chris and he wrote the following: ‘’Well done Jules – great article and I saw you having lots of fun in Bali and thought you were doing great. The article draws your interests together really well. Great to hear from you. How can you build on this next? C x’’ Sustainability goals

    It is good to be aware, of the overall impacts and rate of development and the profit-driven world that we live in my still somewhat outweigh sustainability goals (from an international and national perspective). But it is also more important to focus on balancing this process and focusing energy into sustainable solutions.

    I am just adding a ‘’conscious awareness’’ perspective here in case as anyone is as interested in the topic as much as me! (Includes international conscious awareness theory notes from E J, Bourne. I will also expand on my thoughts of animals participation in human-led activity, as well as on sustainability versus human development goals).


    We do of course live in a ‘work’ orientated world; in which human and animals work within natural and manmade conditions ”to create, to produce, to develop, to educate, to build, to entertain, to conserve.” With specific animals species especially, it is fascinating to see how they have learned and adapted to working with humans over centuries, including elephants. This isn’t always been exploitative; and animals working in human environments – are respectful, carte for their welfare and provide them with access to positive living conditions and natural environments. Rescue dogs, for instance, have a positive purpose when working with humans. Where there are positive relations with humans, animals have shared loving and protective relations with humans).

    In some respects, I do believe that a ‘’working world,’’ within our ‘’developed world’’ has organised to build positive routine and structure into our lives (we as humans have learnt and adapted – and go with this as a way of life – and in many respects animals have too.). As long as welfare standards and rights for both are met this, is not necessarily negative conditioning: in fact, it has allowed for human evolution, development, and it has created diversity and it has given us significant purposes. Where there is a strong element of choice; freedom to make our own choices, to express ourselves, decide our rights and to be able to work in conditions that allow for a fulfilling personal development experience (humans and even animals in some cases).
    Of course, any situation that limits anyone or anything – in their choices, including in their choice of how they get to live their lives; including, any situation or environmental condition that restricts their true nature, is undesirable. – (Especially long term). This makes positive long-term development goals really important: how can we manage human development, industrial growth and our natural environment, and also to allow for optimal conservation of natural ecosystems and animals sharing this planet with us. To ensure that people and animals can coexist, and simultaneously get the choice to lead fulfilling and abundant lives.
    Globally, both humans and animals alike, have either accessed the freedom that gives them this choice, or have been restricted with limited choice within a phase or space in time. I strongly believe that this isn’t permanent. In actual fact, overtime everything is shifting, changing, and re-developing, and adaptation process are continuous. – There are constant shifts in circumstances across space and time. – Yes, sometimes this means that those in stronger positions, must to help to instigate these shifts in their own lives, or to enable this to happen.
    COLLECTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Overtime we gain higher perspectives, which leads to actions and decisions that things to move in new directions! Which is why, sharing ideas, disseminating information, expanding knowledge, educating and cooperating; in order to inspire new levels of awareness, and innovation (development) ideas, is completely relevant.
    I strongly believe that there must be a balance in everyday lives: in our interactions with each other, with nature and with wildlife. Humans and wildlife alike should be permitted the choice to live in natural habitats, in natural states. They should be allowed to express their natural instincts and to access natural environments. Just as people must able to remain in contact with nature, natural resources, natural ways of living, and with tradition. As humans, we are 100% dependant on the natural world to survive (and of course to lead healthy lives, the more removed we are from nature, the more we tend to lose sight of this)! These are all great reasons for why conservation must be a massive priority! Humanity has a duty to preserve the symbiotic relationship between people, nature and wildlife, for the greater good!

    I admire and respect those who set the intention to reach goals of sustainability, adaptation, positive transformation, and who set goals to recover, protect and preserve our natural earth and ”natural rights.”

    Let’s make sure we make a positive future possible!

    Jules x


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