This was a hard one for me….I have read that there are a lot of unscrupulous “zoos” in Bali & Lombok and was worried by going to this place, that I would be supporting animals being mistreated, drugged and taken from the wild for the pursuit of money and entertaining tourists. But I really wanted the experience of interacting with an Orangatuan!

As an informed tourist, I did a little research and found that although the animals do live in small environments at the Elephant park…they do spend most of their time in a “natural” outside space. The park is also a liscelic rescue facility and animal sanctuary. They are one of the only places that responded to an investigation into animal abuse at local zoos.

The Elephant Park is ran by a wealthy veteranarian who is heavily involved in animal conservation.  They report that their animals have all been rescued from poor environments and overcrowded zoos. The animals had already been through “training” at their previous homes; a sad and often tortuous time for the animals. The animals are still paraded out for people to see, but the staff showed general love and care for them.

Although the sanctuary still offers elephant rides, a long time practice in Indonesia, they do seem to limit the amount of time the elephants have to endure this…I did not participate in this offering. Overall, the elephants seemed happy; flopping their ears and waggling their tail. A fairly large area had been built where the elephants could fully submerge themselves in water, graze from naturally growing flora and still interact with the guests.


Several of the Orangatuans at the park were actually raised in captivity after being taken from their parents in the wild. Wild adult Orangatuans are often killed so their babies can be taken and sold at a premium to unscrupulous zoos and circuses. This practice is now highly illegal in Indonesia…but unfortunately still happens and is only continuing the depletion of such magnificent animals in the wild.

I asked the staff if they have plans to reintroduce the animals into wildlife sanctuaries such as Camp Leaky in Borneo. They stated that it is in the plans..but they have only been open for a year and a half. They are trying to pair each animal with a mate in hopes of breeding and increasing the population of these endangered species. I am sceptical of this…but eh, what can you do. The animals are basically incapable of living a life in the wild as they have been either “broken” of their wild instincts or raised from birth in captivity. One of the domestic Orangatuans was supposedly reintroduced to a wildlife sanctuary and ended up being removed as she was reportedly beaten up on by the other animals. She was never taught to forage for food and began to suffer from malnutrition as well. Once again, I take these explanations with a grain of salt and hope they are true.

Any way, the animals were amazing to see up close and my interation with Palen, the 8 year old Orangatuan was beyond cool. Palen was brought up by people and loves the interaction with guests. He was given a little treat and walked in holding his trainers hand. They were very natural with him, but stood by to make sure he wasn’t overzealous in his affection. Orangatuans are 7x stronger than humans.

Here are some pics:

Google photo album of Lombok Elephant Park

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