Twenty Southern Cross University students have travelled to Indonesia this month to help save elephants after winning an Australian Government New Colombo scholarship.
The students are volunteering for two weeks in Sumatra at the Way Kambas National Park to work on conservation programs alongside the non-profit Save Indonesian Endangered Species Fund.
Second-year business student Ashleigh Campbell, 20, said students from varied disciplines, from environmental science through to music were travelling as part of the group, which will deliver food and care for orphaned elephants, work on forest rehabilitation and the construction of dams to preserve water for animals during the dry season.
“Poaching is a huge issue for elephants in this area, so we will be helping to improve the conditions at the elephant centre for the animals who have been rescued,” Ashleigh said.
As an online student based on the Sunshine Coast, Ashleigh met all of her travel companions from the Gold Coast, Lismore and Coffs Harbour campuses, for the first time at the airport.
“I’m so excited for this opportunity. We have all been connecting on Facebook to prepare for the trip and it is going to be interesting to see how each student brings their knowledge to the project,” she said.
“We will have a home stay for a couple of nights in the village where we will get to meet and interact with the locals.
“I work in a library and have been able to collect some old books to donate to give to the children there in the villages.”
There are 70 captive Sumatran elephants at Way Kambas Elephant Conservation Centre, while the greater Way Kambas National Park has around 200 wild Sumatran elephants, 45 Sumatran rhinoceros and 50 Sumatran tigers.
This is the fifth student team Southern Cross University lecturer Dr David Lloyd has led to the region in as many years, working alongside local veterinary surgeon, Claire Oelrichs who heads up Save Indonesian Endangered Species.
“We’ve opened this trip up to students across different disciplines to enable them to work together on social and environmental problems and to see what each discipline can bring to the solution,” said Dr Lloyd, from the School of Environment, Science and Engineering.
“Last year students helped build a 20,000 litre trough and water pumps for a mother and baby elephant and built shelters to protect animals and farmland. We will continue our forest elephant study in Sumatra and monitor wildlife with camera traps.
“The Colombo Plan Scholarship covers the cost of student flights, but we are teaching students to fundraise for future major projects with this money going directly to delivering the outcomes of the park, the wildlife and the elephants.”
Each student is aiming to raise $1500 to help the orphaned and wild elephants of Sumatra.
To donate visit chuffed.org and type in Save Orphan Elephants of Sumatra.