Regional students make international impact at Sumatra elephant centre

Published 2 February 2018
Nyomi Bodley Nyomi Bodley

Twenty Southern Cross University students will spend two weeks in a Sumatran village helping rescued elephants with support from Australian Government New Colombo Plan mobility grants.

Students studying a range of degrees at Southern Cross University Gold Coast, Lismore, and Coffs Harbour campuses and online will take part in the once-in-a-lifetime trip, where they will develop a food plantation for the Sumatran elephants, construct small dams and reforestation projects, teach swimming and English lessons to locals, and enjoy a homestay with families in the region.

Each student is required to raise $1500 towards on-the-ground works with conservation group Save Indonesian Endangered Species Fund (SIES), which supports the Way Kambas Elephant Conservation Centre where about 70 elephants are being cared for. Around 200 wild Sumatran elephants, 45 rhinoceros and 50 tigers are living in the greater Way Kambas National Park.

Second-year Bachelor of Environmental Science/Marine Science and Management students Nyomi Bodley from Lismore campus and Eliza Dedini from Coffs Harbour campus, said they were excited to put their degree into practice and assist local Sumatran people and elephants in a meaningful way.

Nyomi received the Mayor of Lismore Scholarship in 2017 and lives with her family in Coraki on a 10-acre farm. She said it would be a big change experiencing a new culture in Indonesia.

“I’ve never seen an elephant before and this is my first trip to Asia so I know this is going to be a life-changing experience for me, and hopefully for the elephants and people we get to work with,” Nyomi said.

“I’m really excited about the trip and being able to experience a new culture and take part in a conservation project in a developing country.

“This whole experience will add so much to what I’m studying, by learning how to work with a team of students across disciplines, working in a different culture with different political agendas, and making lots of new connections with new people which might help in my future career.”

Nyomi will head to Bali for a short holiday before meeting with the rest of the team in Jakarta on February 10 and then flying to Way Kambas National Park to begin the University project.

Third-year business student Jordanna Hinton, 20, from Robina on the Gold Coast, will complete her final exam of her Southern Cross undergraduate degree on Wednesday. She was thrilled to be selected for the trip before she graduates later this year.

“This is my first time volunteering and working with elephants and I’m very excited for the trip to Indonesia, even though it will be a bit out of my comfort zone,” Jordanna said.

“I have adored elephants ever since I was a kid and I’ve always wanted to help them in some way.

“I plan on studying a Masters in Social Development next year so this will give me experience working with a different culture, meeting the locals there and understanding how they live and the issues they face.

“After the Sumatra trip I will be flying straight to Vietnam where I will be teaching English during my gap year before I head back to begin my Masters.”

Online student from North Lakes in the Moreton Bay region Jaeden Vardon, 21, is studying his fourth year of the Bachelor of Environmental Science/Bachelor of Marine Science and Management and says the best part of his course so far has been completing the practical sessions and field trips such as scuba diving and snorkelling at the Coffs Harbour and Lismore campuses.

“I couldn’t believe it when I was selected to take part in this Sumatra trip, it will definitely be the highlight of university so far and is such a good opportunity to get out there and apply what I’ve learned and help others in the process,” he said.

“I’m most excited about the journey and working with other people I haven’t met yet, seeing the animals and helping with the conservation to protect them. My understanding is we will also be giving swimming lessons to some of the park staff so they can carry out their duties safely and not have to worry about getting into trouble.”

When he graduates, Jaeden said he is interested in going on to further Honours research and then wants to run his own tourism business offering the ultimate aquatic adventure while incorporating marine science and conservation education.

This is the sixth 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.

“This year we are focusing primarily on establishing an elephant food farm to produce higher quantities of quality, nutritious food for the 70 elephants in the centre,” Dr Lloyd said.

“The extra funds raised will pay for small dams in the park to preserve against climate change, firefighting, anti-poaching patrol, reforestation, elephant protection and rescue.”

Media contact: Jessica Nelson 0417288794