Deep inside the Indonesian rainforest of central Sumatra lives the Tesso Nilo Elephant Flying Squad. This group of seven domesticated elephants and their 11 specially trained mahouts are operated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in collaboration with Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry. The squad’s mission is to provide a secure haven for Riau Province’s largest remaining wild elephant population. Elephant numbers have declined in Riau from more than 1,600 in 1985 to as few as 350 today, about 150 of which live in Tesso Nilo National Park. By patrolling the fringes of the park, the squad helps prevent wild elephants from invading farms and villages — where they can cause immense damage and run the risk of being injured or killed by angry farmers and villagers — by carefully driving them back into the jungle. The Elephant Flying Squad is in constant battle to bring harmony to the local environment by mitigating human-elephant conflict. And, so far, this supersize security patrol appears to be winning.

– Rod Mackenzie

Browse ‘Sumatra’s High Flyers’, the Silkwinds magazine cover story about the Tesso Nilo Elephant Flying Squad.