The elephants were previously trained to survey the forests for human intruders

By Alex Heigl
Updated November 11, 2015 11:06 PM

While “fight forest fires” might not be the cutest thing elephants have been trained to do, it’s up there among the most useful.

The eastern Sumatra province Riau has been plagued by forest fires for the past three months: Forest fires have spread out of control in peat-rich areas, where they’re especially difficult to contain.

So officials at the elephant conservation center in Siak district are turning to another natural resource for aid: 23 elephants, outfitted with water pumps and hoses to act as “forest watchdogs.”

The crews leading the elephants patrol burned areas in the national forest to make sure that smoldering peat doesn’t reignite and turn into larger conflagrations.

Mono-named Supartono, head of Riau’s Forestry Division, said the elephants were already trained to patrol the forests for both human invaders and wild elephants — specifically, to keep the peace between wild elephants encroaching on human areas and anyone endangered by them.