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Projects in Myanmar

Elephant Foot Care Session

Vanessa Gagne

Since 2013 Asian Elephant Support has been collaborating and supporting training of staff in elephant camps managed by the Myanma Timber Enterprise (MTE) in Burma (now called Myanmar).  This includes supporting the training of veterinarians, veterinary assistants, camp managers, mahouts, and timber rangers in the camps, and includes topics such as elephant health and husbandry, field navigation with GPS and maps, recording and recordkeeping of data, and exchanges with staff from similar programs in other Asian countries.

To continually improve the management and health care of their captive elephants, MTE conducted a training workshop for veterinarians, veterinary assistants, and mahouts from September 14 to 20, 2015. Invited presenters were Dr. Christopher Stremme, elephant veterinarian from Indonesia and elephant manager Heidi Riddle.  The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Zaw Min Oo, Assistant Manager, MTE Veterinary Services.

The workshop started on September 14 at the MTE training school in Taungoo, Bago region. During the first day lectures were given on differences between Asian and African elephants, captive elephant management in western facilities, training elephants for foot care, elephant foot anatomy and physiology, elephant foot problems and diseases, as well as treatment and prevention. Participants in the session included 18 veterinary assistants and 12 mahouts. From September 15-20 the session was continued in the Phokyar elephant camp close to the town of Taungoo.

During this time practical demonstrations using the camp elephants were given about training elephants for foot care and conducting foot care. From the second day on the participants were divided into 4 groups; two elephants with their mahouts were assigned to each group. The groups were supervised to start training their elephants and to conduct basic foot care procedures. Participants were extremely interested, enthusiastic, and participated very well in the practical activities. By the end of the session all the elephants used during the practical part were able to be handled for basic foot care, and the participants seemed to have gotten a good basic understanding of the principles of elephant foot care. Foot care tools donated earlier in the year by the Elephant Managers Association and by AES were given to all participants of the session and to mahouts from the Phokyar camp to enable them to continue this elephant care after the session ended.

In addition to the Phokyar elephant camp, two other camps (Myaing Hay Wun and Green Hill Valley) managing MTE elephants were visited. Captive elephant management and foot care topics were discussed via presentations and practical demonstrations. Foot care tools were also distributed to mahouts in these camps.

Further collaborations including training and knowledge exchange between elephant management programs and staff from Myanmar and other Asian elephant range countries (i.e. Sumatra-Indonesia) are planned for the future.