United by elephant
“At the beginning we were just friends and spent most of our time together when we were out patrolling. But Evatma is a lovely and helpful woman, with a beautiful smile I can’t resist, and I fell for her very quickly” said the groom Fikri.
Both newlyweds are part of the WWF Elephant Flying Squad a team composed of captive animals and their carers, also known as mahouts. It patrols settlements on the edges of Tesso Nilo National Park and helps reduce conflict between farmers and wild elephants by scaring them away.
Established in 2004 as a joint operation of WWF-Indonesia and the Conservation Authority of Riau, the Flying Squad consisted of 4 elephants and 8 carriers. Over the year, the elephant family has grown to has 3 babies with additional 2 female mahouts to take care of them. Today the total flying squad team counts 7 elephants with 10 carriers.
Their lucky animal also played a central role in their unique wedding ceremony - the groom rode on an elephant’s back to join his bride’s house in the village of Lubuk Kembang Bunga.
Although Fikri has been a mahout since 2004 and is quite used to such rides, this one was of course unique, and the vision of the animal bowing down to let him climb on his back was as endearing and emotional to him as it was to the guests.
The akad (religious ceremony) took place at the bride’s home. After the ljab Kabul (wedding vows) Fikri and Evatma were declared husband and wife, and it’s naturally that straight after the ceremony they went back to their gentle pachyderm.
Dressed in traditional Malayu Pelalawan outfits, they paraded through the village on the back of the also brightly decorated elephant. It was then that the festivities began and the rest is history.
The idea of this unique wedding ceremony came from Syamsuardi, WWF-Indonesia’s Flying Squad Coordinator:
“We wanted to give our friends a memorable and priceless experience for their marriage. But in doing this, we also wanted to show to people that elephants and human can live in harmony.”
Extra attention and caution was however required in order to prepare the animals, which are not used to being in contact with large crowds and loud noises, for the procession.
"Thank God, everything went well” commented Syamsuardi. “Everybody was able to enjoy and share the happiness of this unique ceremony.”
Fikri and Evatma will undoubtedly remember this unique ceremony all their lives. Elephants never forget, as the saying goes.
Send your best wishes to Fikri Pohan and Evatma Dewi by leaving your comment below: