The Tangkahan Sumatran elephants are refugees of a shrinking habitat. As their homes are converted to farmland or large scale plantations Sumatran elephants are increasingly brought into contact with humans. This human elephant conflict often results in the poisoning of elephants and in an effort to avoid these conflicts, these elephants are caught and relocated to government run elephant training centres.
These centres are under resourced and overpopulated. One solution to the problems faced by the training centres was to establish the Conservation Response Units (CRUs), designed to give these captive elephants a better life and to protect the habitat still available to their wild counterparts. The CRU, where the elephants of Tangkahan are cared for, aims to provide forest protection, high quality care for the resident elephants, ongoing professional training for the mahouts, education to both locals and visitors on the plight of Sumatran elephants, and essential financial sustainability through eco tourism.
When you book an interaction with the elephants of the CRU Tangkahan, you are contributing directly to a well established, professional and innovative Tangkahan Sumatran elephant conservation program.
The CRU model was implemented by Fauna and Flora International, since then it has been supported by Melbourne Zoo, Australia Zoo, Vesswic, and the International Elephant Foundation.
Tangkahan is a tourist site situated on the edge of the Gunung Leuser national park, around 20km due north from Bukit Lawang. As with Bukit Lawang, prior to tourism there was no village at Tangkahan itself, but the area is in situated in the vicinity of two established villages, Namo Sialang and Sei Serdang, while Tangkahan itself is purely a tourist/conservation site. Tangkahan is in Batang Serangan district, northern Langkat regency, while Bukit Lawang is in the Bohorok district southern Langkat regency.
Like all rural villages in Indonesia, employment opportunities are poor, and there was pressure on the jungle as a result, as local people seek to make a living from the natural resources by logging, or planting oil palms. In 2001 Lembaga Pariwisata Tangkahan (Tangkahan Tourism Foundation) was established by the local people to provide an alternative to deforestation.
The village sits at the confluence of two rivers, the Batang, and Buluh, so at weekends it can get busy with local tourists, whose favourite activity is to 'mandi' (swim/bathe) in the river.
The main tourist draw at Tangkahan is the presence of Sumatran elephants, which can be bathed in the river, or taken for elephant treks.
On Fridays there are no elephant rides/bathing, as the elephants are on jungle patrol.
Tangkahan has no public transport links to Bukit Lawang, but our Tangkahan trips use our off-road vehicles to travel between the two villages.