On Dec. 11, 2007, "World News with Charles Gibson" correspondent Nick Watt introduced us to the World Wildlife Fund's Flying Squad — a group of five trained elephants that are working to help save the endangered Asian elephants in Tesso Nilo National Park in central Sumatra.
We are happy to report that, since then, the Flying Squad welcomed its sixth member — a baby elephant named Saree, born just in time for the holidays.
Sumatra is an ideal habitat for the endangered Asian elephant, but it also has ideal growing conditions for coffee beans. Wild Asian elephants and coffee beans had become unlikely competitors in this rapidly shrinking wilderness. Forests were burned to clear land to grow Robusta coffee beans, which are commonly used in Europe and North America to make instant coffee.
As elephants found their habitat shrinking, they left the forest and trampled crops, like coffee. So, the farmers killed them.
The World Wildlife Fund has been trying to stop this cycle in central Sumatra. In Tesso Nilo National Park, the fund introduced the Flying Squad elephants to patrol the boundary between forests and farms further north, to keep wild elephants away from people.
When the Flying Squad meets a wild elephant that threatens a village and they can't scare it away, then the male elephants in the Flying Squad have to stand, lock tusks and fight. Baby Saree is joining this intrepid group of guardians.
The World Wildlife Fund plans to train more elephants to join the Flying Squad, because ever since the squad's been on patrol, not one wild elephant has been killed on their watch.