This post was originally published on March 3, 2015 and updated on May 18, 2021.

Elephants in Malaysia have many people looking out for them. In the sixth episode of Asian Food Channel’s Eating Wild, hosts naturalist Nigel Marven and chef Anis Nabilah visited locations throughout Malaysia to learn how people are working together to protect the gentle creatures. The hosts cared for baby elephants at the National Elephant Conservation Center in Pahang before visiting a Malaysian palm oil plantation in Sabah. At the plantation they learn that the Malaysian palm oil industry practices sustainable agriculture and plays an active role in elephant conservation.

The National Elephant Conservation Center is located in a Malaysian national park that is surrounded by sustainable palm oil plantations. The center cares for elephants that have been separated from their families. At the center, Marven and Nabilah bottle-fed two young elephants. Center manager Raslo Othman said the animals reach adulthood at about age 15 and then will be released into the wild. Their needs now are different. “Actually they need love. They are orphans here: no parents, no family and no family members. The keepers are like their family. They are very close.”

The treatment of elephants in Malaysia has improved since the center opened in 1974. “Over the last 25 years, we found (our programs) very effective,” Othman said. “Now we never hear about killing or hunting of elephants.”

The Malaysian palm oil industry works to find a balance between people and the planet

At a sustainable palm oil plantation in Sabah, Nabilah and Marven learned that the Malaysian palm industry provides thousands of needed jobs. “The stronger the country’s economy, the more people employed, the more chance there is that precious animals like elephants will be properly protected in game parks and reserves,” explained Marven.

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Nabilah’s interaction with the elephants inspired her to prepare Thai Prawn Cakes with Spicy Jungle Noodle. She fried the flavorful shrimp dish is Malaysian sustainable palm oil. She said, “Palm oil is perfect for frying and it is also healthier.”

Back at the elephant center, the hosts visited with Selendang, a nine-year-old elephant that lost part of its leg to a snare trap. The animal will likely spend the next 60 years being cared for at the center. Othman explained that center provides educational programs to help people live in harmony with the animals. The Malaysian government also has a national action plan in place to protect the elephants. The Malaysian palm oil industry helps with elephant conservation. “They sit together with our wildlife department to discuss how to solve or reduce the conflict between elephants and humans,” Othman explained. The Malaysian palm oil industry also helped build the first pygmy elephant sanctuary in Borneo.

Nabilah ended the show by preparing Thai beef green curry with wild eggplants. “Palm oil is one of the most nutritious vegetable oils on the market,” Nabilah said. “I use it for all my cooking needs.”

The Asian Food Channel
The Asian Food Channel (AFC) is the leading food and lifestyle broadcaster in Asia, broadcasting in 13 territories including Hong Kong, Malaysia, China and the Philippines. The channel is owned by Scripps Networks Interactive which also owns U.S. favorites, the Travel Channel and Food Network. AFC is the first food TV channel to broadcast pan-regionally in Asia.

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