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Projects in Sumatra, Indonesia

Update From the Field: Conservation Response Units

Chris Rico

This past February the seven operating Conservation Response Units (CRUs) in Aceh, Sumatra were notified that a restructuring of the forestry department would leave them without funds for up to six months.  The change in governance to provincial forestry officials will take several months.  This has left the mahouts in some areas without their basic needs being met.  Unfortunately, as we all know, money matters can take an eternity within a bureaucracy.

Monitoring migration of wild elephants

Monitoring migration of wild elephants

When AES heard of the emergency situation we were able to provide funds within a 24 hour period after having received the news.  Because we are a small, close-knit board of directors we were able to respond in the knick of time.  Thankfully, due to our dedicated supporters, we had the funds available for the CRUs to continue their mission to mitigate human-elephant conflict around Way Kambas National Park.  We couldn’t have done it without your support.  So on behalf of the elephants and mahouts in the CRUs, we say thank you.  

Drought in Way Kambas

Vanessa Gagne

Enduring the dry season in Way Kambas National Park (WKNP), Indonesia, August 2016

The month of August brought with it increased temperatures, dried grassland, and big challenges for the WKNP Elephant Response Units (EURs).  The dry season gave rise to the illegal burning of alang-alang grasses and in this one month alone, the ERUs who call the park home reported 22 forest fires. These fires were believed to have been started by wildlife hunters to facilitate wild deer hunts mainly in the Bungur and Tegal Yoso, with the latter hit hardest.  

    Managing forest fires was not an anticipated task for the WKNP mahouts who have not been trained to fight fires.  Due to the unpredicted need and lack of budget for firefighting equipment the ERUs rose to the challenge and worked feverishly using tree branches to help extinguish the fire. Water was also used from their water bottles to saturate surrounding areas in order to prevent the fires from spreading. The Bungur ERU found one case where an area of 2 hectares of grassland had been destroyed by fires.  Tegal Yoso had the most prolific illegal burning within their patrol region reporting 21 cases.  In 10 instances the grasslands were burnt 2-3 days previous to patrols.  The remaining 11 cases the Tegal Yoso ERUs encountered were active fires which required immediate attention by mahouts to prevent further destruction of the park.

    The three ERUs assigned to the park, patrol a very large area that stretches over 125,261.3 hectares. On patrols they continually try to deter and prevent any illegal forest activities while monitoring and protecting wildlife.  An enormous thank you goes to the ERU teams who rose to the difficult challenges they faced and put their safety secondary to protecting the biome and the inhabitants of the WKNP.   Our donors also deserve many thanks for helping supporting the patrols the ERUs carryout.  In the case of emergency situations, such as the ones the Way Kambas encountered in August, every donation is crucial to the future of the wildlife and forest protected by the ERUs.

ERU Video

Vanessa Gagne

Straight from Sumatra, Indonesia!

Check out this video of the Margahayu ERU (Elephant Response Unit) team when they meet a herd of wild elephants! This is one of the many reasons these teams are so valuable.   Riding on the trained elephants, it is amazing how close they can get to the wild elephants.  They get a true assessment of the numbers, condition, and sex ratios of elephants in Sumatra.  The information they are able to gather will be used to determine conservation strategies to help save this critically endangered species.

Way Kambas ERU Update

Vanessa Gagne

A busy February and March for Way Kambas ERU’s...

With our continued support, the Elephant Response Units (ERU’s) in Sumatra, Indonesia have had a busy February and March.  Their work not only helps to alleviate elephant-human conflict but also helps protect the Way Kambas National Park from illegal activities and ensure the survival of present Sumatran elephant populations.

The Bungur, Tegal Yoso, and Mraghayu ERU’s conduct regular monitoring patrols inside and along the National Park boarders.  During these two months, while on patrol the ERU’s removed and destroyed five wildlife snares inside the park as well as a bridge for logging camps. Six instances of illegal logging were also reported to the National Parks Department.  Multiple plots of illegal grass cutting for grazing were noted and one group of cattle was found with no sign of ownership.   Three dead elephants were found within park boarders which included an adult male, adult female, and one calf.

Mahout with disarmed snare

Mahout with disarmed snare

February was an active month for wild elephants in and around the park.  Elephant tracks are a good way of verifying elephant activity and were found over fifteen times during the two months inside the park.  Groups of elephants that were directly observed ranged in size from 5-30 elephants. A herd of 8 elephants with two female calves were observed in February by the Tegal Yoso ERU and once again the following month by the Bungur ERU.

The direct involvement of local community members with the ERUs is vital to ensuring the community has a shared sense of investment in and responsibility for the future of wild elephants. A huge thank you goes to the ERU teams, forest police, and the local communities who are coming together to help save the critically endangered Sumatran elephant. Thanks to all of our donors for helping make these patrols possible.

ERUs to the Rescue: Mom and Calf

Vanessa Gagne

Once again we are so proud to be supporting the Elephant Response Units (ERU's) in Sumatra, Indonesia. The work that they do every day is critical to the survival of the wild Sumatran elephant population.  On December 1, 2015 the Margahayu ERU learned that a wild female elephant and calf had become stuck in a muddy trench on the border of Way Kambas National Park.  
 

The ERU team located the pair and attempted to rescue the elephants, but it proved to be quite difficult. The team returned with the ERU captive elephants and with their help they were able to successfully rescue the wild pair.  The wild elephants returned to the rest of their herd that was waiting in the National Park.

A huge thank you to all of the ERU teams that are dedicated to saving the critically endangered Sumatran elephant and to all of our donors that make it possible.
 

trench3.jpg

Reptile Workshop for Vet Students

Vanessa Gagne

Course participants

Course participants

While Asian Elephant Support’s funding to Dr. Stremme focuses on elephant needs and issues, his work at the veterinary university in Aceh needs to address all wildlife that share the same ecosystem.  Recently, Dr. Stremme invited reptile expert, Dr. Sonja Luz, WRS Director for Research and Conservation, to lecture, provide practical demonstrations, and hands on training with his students.  These are the future veterinarians who will be responsible for the care and conservation of all of Sumatra’s wildlife and we wanted to share some of the workshop pictures with you.  

Safe reptile handling

Safe reptile handling

Blood draw on Moniro Lizard

Blood draw on Moniro Lizard

ERU Field Report

Vanessa Gagne

A herd of 15 Sumatran elephants including one calf observed by the ERU in November 2015

A herd of 15 Sumatran elephants including one calf observed by the ERU in November 2015

Way Kambas National Park (WKNP) is located at the southern tip of Sumatra on the eastern coast of Lampung province. It is one of the oldest reserves in Indonesia and occupies 1,300 sq km.  Home to the critically endangered Sumatran elephant and many other endangered species, WKNP is a treasure that needs to be protected.  

AES has had the opportunity to support the Conservation Response Units (CRU’s), also referred to as Elephant Response Units (ERU’s), over the last several years.  This includes recently donating funds to supply the CRU elephants with much needed food during an exceptionally long dry season. With the help of the communities surrounding the Park, these CRU’s teams do monthly patrols in the forest to monitor for illegal wildlife activity and to monitor wild elephant populations. They also educate the people in the communities on the importance of preserving the forests and help mitigate human-elephant conflicts.

We want to share with you a special look into the activities of the CRU’s in WKNP. Please visit here to see a monthly report outlining the activities.

And rest assured, your donations are making a difference for Asian elephants!

CONSERVATION AND RESPONSE UNITS WAY KAMBAS, SUMATRA, INDONESIA

Vanessa Gagne

Prepared by Elena Pranatio and Dr. Christopher Stremme

The Conservation Response Units (CRU) in the Way Kambas National Park (WKNP), which are employing captive elephants and mahouts from the Way Kambas Elephant Conservation Center to conduct human elephant conflict management and habitat patrols, are hugely effective and contribute much to reducing human-elephant conflict (HEC) and securing the WKNP habitat.

The first two CRUs  were established with the construction of permanent basecamps in 2011 and 2013 on the northwestern border of the WKNP in the areas of Bungur and Tegal Yoso.  This is one of the HEC hotspots having caused ongoing loss of almost all crops close to the WKNP border; therefore leading to great resentment against the WKNP and wild elephants from local communities.

The two CRU base camps at Bungur and Tegal Yoso each have 5 captive elephants used for habitat patrols and, if needed, to drive off wild herds that  venture into farmland. During daily routine patrols the two units cover more than 15 km of WKNP border and a total of about 400km² of national park area. Regular staff of each CRU unit consists of 5 mahouts from the WKNP and 4 people from the local communities who are employed and trained as permanent staff of the CRU teams. Besides conducting patrols and wild elephant drives inside the national park, the CRU teams have also encouraged teams from local communities to build observation posts outside the WKNP on its border area and conduct regular night watches to detect wild elephants early and guard their valuable crops. The teams from the local communities have been trained in techniques of how to drive away wild elephants if they get close to the WKNP border and if needed,  get backed up by the experienced CRU teams with its elephants.

A communication system, via mobile phones, between the CRU teams and the local community teams has been established and functions as an early warning tool ensuring ongoing information exchange between the CRU and local communities about elephant migrations close to the WKNP border.  This allows for  the timely coordination for needed crop guarding and wild elephant drives.

Currently 11 villages in the Bungur – Tegal Yoso area benefit from and participate in this HEC mitigation strategy with the CRUs. As a result of this work, the occurrence of incidents where wild elephants actually succeeded to pass the WKNP border and reach farmland has been reduced by more than 70%. The actual loss of crops due to the early warning and quick intervention has been reduced by more than 90%.

Due to the massive decrease of loss of crops, and thus increased income, the local communities have become much more willing to withdraw from most illegal activities inside the WKNP such as logging, cultivation, poaching, and cattle grazing and have become willing to accept the CRU’s law enforcement role for the protection of the WKNP area as undisturbed habitat for wild elephants. This has led to a reduction of such illegal activities by more than 90% in the Bungur-Tegal Yoso area.

Due to the success of the Bungur and Tegal-Yoso CRUs, in 2014 the head of the National Park has asked donors such as IEF, AES, and USFWS, who have supported the establishment and operation of the CRUs, for support to establish a new third CRU at the southwestern border of the WKNP, which is another HEC hotspot. IEF, USFWS, and AES agreed to support the establishment of this new CRU and in November 2014 the construction of the new basecamp in the Margahayu region was started. In January 2015 the CRU team were based at the camp while still under construction. The initial team consisted of 5 captive elephants and 5 mahouts from the WKNP Elephant Conservation Center. Shortly after the team arrived 4 young local people from nearby communities were employed and started to be trained as CRU team members. Training for such new team members consists of:

  • Captive elephant management and care
  • Habitat navigation by using basic orientation points in the area, maps, and GPS
  • Wild elephant behavior, approach and driving strategies
  • Conservation laws and regulations

Initial staff training and camp construction were completed in April 2015 and the new CRU is fully operational. During its daily routine patrols a border area of about 10km is covered. During the past months the CRU team has constantly monitored the movement of wild elephant herds close to the WKNP border. Already several situations have been encountered by the team where a large herd of more than 30 animals intended to cross the NP border to venture into villages and farmland. The team has managed these incidents by driving the elephants away from the border back into the forest area of the WKNP. Such drive operations often last for several days because during the drive, the wild elephants initially retreat in the nearby forest, but during the next night they try to enter into the farmland again. This means the CRU team has to stand by on guard for several days until the wild herds finally give up and retreat back deeper into the WKNP forest area.

The people from local communities start to respond positively to the presence and activities of the new CRU as major crop raiding events by wild elephants have been prevented since the CRU has become active.  The team has started to approach the people from the local communities to start building joint crop guarding and HEC mitigation strategies like in Bungur and Tegal-Yoso. The CRU team has already encouraged and supported the first community members for the construction of two observation posts outside the WKNP directly on its border with farmland. These posts are now already used for crop guarding during the night time by local community members.

The CRUs have become a very successful and important part of the WKNP habitat protection and HEC mitigation strategy. The successful implementation of the day to day field work is ensured by teams of highly motivated and skilled staff from the national park in close collaboration with local communities.

A major obstacle is that the WKNP agency itself does not have sufficient resources to fully finance the ongoing operation of CRUs. Therefor the continuation and possible expansion of the successful CRU work relies much on external funding support.

7th Indonesian Mahout Workshop

Vanessa Gagne

A wonderful group photo of all workshop participants, until next year!

A wonderful group photo of all workshop participants, until next year!

The 7th Indonesian Mahout Workshop hosted by FOKMAS (Indonesian Mahout Communication Forum) was held from February 24-27, 2015, at the Minas government elephant training center  located in the province of Riau in Sumatra, Indonesia. Seventy participants attended the workshop and represented most of the Sumatran government elephant camps, Conservation Response Units (CRUs), and other elephant patrol units in Sumatra, as well as several zoos and safari parks from Sumatra, Java, and Bali. The majority of participants were mahouts, but some camp managers and veterinarians from private facilities also attended.

The Indonesian Mahout Workshops were initiated in 2006 at the Seblat government elephant conservation center in Bengkulu province (Sumatra) to provide an opportunity for mahouts to share information, strengthen their professionalism, and influence elephant conservation in Indonesia more effectively.

Banner showing all the sponsors that helped make the workshop possible

Banner showing all the sponsors that helped make the workshop possible

Several NGOs, including the International Elephant Foundation, Asian Elephant Support, and the Elephant Managers Association, provided workshop support to assist this professional training opportunity for mahouts. General issues discussed during the workshop included problems mahouts encounter in their elephant work and habitat conservation efforts, finding solutions to improve the care and management of Indonesia’s wild and captive elephants, and means to create an information network with colleagues throughout Asia. FOKMAS and the Mahout Workshops are supported by Indonesian government conservation agencies

During the first two days of the workshop several presentations and an informal hands-on session were given by visiting colleagues from the Myanma Timber Enterprise (MTE). The group from Myanmar included 2 MTE elephant veterinarians, an MTE manager, and a senior mahout (Singaung) from an MTE timber camp.  The Indonesian mahouts were very attentive to the presentations from their Myanmar counterparts, and good discussions resulted from the interactions.  The participants from Myanmar were impressed with the level of interest from the Indonesian mahouts and expressed the intention to develop similar meeting and training opportunities for mahouts in Myanmar.  As you may remember, Asian Elephant Support has helped fund both veterinarian and mahout workshops in Myanmar.

In addition to presentations, training in field navigation using maps and GPS units was conducted during the Workshop. This training was divided into two parts: theoretical background and hands-on practice in locations within the Minas camp area. All mahouts were instructed about various skills to deal with wildlife monitoring and illegal activities such as data collection and recording, GPS instruction, human-wildlife conflict mitigation techniques, and community relations. Building capacity of the mahouts with skills for improved forest protection and wildlife conservation also promotes improved job performance of these individuals.  

The final part of the Mahout Workshop included discussion among the participants about improving elephant facilities and management in Indonesia, and a wrap up of the field navigation and GPS sessions.

Lecture time

Lecture time

These Mahout Workshops and interactions with fellow mahouts from around Asia are very important for the mahout staff across Indonesia.  There is a need to continue these regional professional exchanges and training as this has resulted in positive outcomes.  In Indonesia, the government has requested input from FOKMAS about mitigating elephant conflict.  FOKMAS is currently in the planning stages for the next Mahout Workshop and will continue hosting mahout training modules so this level of staff can be more effective participants in elephant conservation initiatives in Indonesia.

Asian Elephant Support appreciates the opportunity we have had to be a part of this educational effort thanks to the support of our donors.  So that we will be able to help fund future workshops, please consider making a donation.  Our thanks!

ACEH - A real team effort

Vanessa Gagne

Asian Elephant Support is participating in a significant endeavor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.   This innovative effort, the “Aceh Conservation, Environment, Humanity” (ACEH) program, is working to engage legislators in Aceh Province, Indonesia.

Conservation biologists alone have not been able to slow down the rapid decline in numbers of wildlife species and their wild habitats around the world.  Human-elephant conflict (HEC) has been identified as a major threat to elephant conservation by all Asian elephant range country governments.  The greatest danger HEC poses to elephants is the antagonism it generates among local communities toward wildlife.  

The specific goals of ACEH are:

  • Strengthen the concept of “sustainable development”, which has been mandated by the Indonesian Constitution.
  • Support the formation and operation of the Aceh Sustainable Development Caucus.
  • Facilitate the flow of information about sustainable development to legislators in order to enhance the development of public policies that incorporate sustainability principles.
  • Provide technical consultation to Aceh’s Parliament on a variety of issues such as land-use planning.

In January and February of this year, the ACEH team devoted significant time to conducting presentations and meetings with 13 of the 15 political parties in Aceh during the lead up to the local elections in April.  ACEH is building a network of civil society organizations to contribute to this effort.  At present ACEH is planning the agenda and structure for the Caucus, which is expected to begin in October 2014 when newly elected legislators start their terms.

We want to share with you the ACEH brochure, in English, that summarizes this project.  We appreciate our supporters who, in turn, enable us to be a small part of this major effort for wildlife in Aceh and throughout Asia.

Update - Elephants at ERU camps and Sun Bear release

Vanessa Gagne

As usual, the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC) veterinarians are working diligently for elephants and other wildlife in Sumatra.  In August, the team visited the Elephant Conservation Centers (ECC) in Minas and Sebanga in the province of Riau.  After VESSWIC assisted the Nature Conservation Agency (BKSDA) with a few cases involving wild and captive elephants, the head of BKSDA Riau sent a formal request for regular health care support.  VESSWIC will be collaborating with the BKSDA to improve the care of the elephants in the Riau elephant camps.  The initial plan is to do quarterly visits for the next 12 months. During this trip the vet team was invited to visit a small conservation forest area inside a pulp and paper production forest. The company with in this conservation area, Arar Abadi Pulp and Paper Company, currently manages 6 elephants, but the management of these elephants will be going back to BKSDA Riau.  The BKSDA and Ara Abadi would like to establish an elephant patrol unit in the Bengkalis district, which is an area of high human-elephant conflict. VESSWIC was asked to evaluate the health and general management of the elephants to determine if they could be used for patrol.  Furthermore, BKSDA has asked VESSWIC to provide technical assistance to establish this new Conservation Response Unit (CRU)/ Elephant Patrol Unit.

Last medical check before transport

Last medical check before transport

In our last update in the April newsletter, VESWIC had assisted BKSDA Aceh with a sun bear rescue.  We are happy to report that two of the sun bears that were being kept in quarantine at the BKSDA headquarters have been released into the Ulu Massen forest area. One of the bears had been confiscated from an illegal private holding facility and the other had been injured in a wire snare and brought to the headquarters for treatment.  

Loading the boat to go deep into the forest

Loading the boat to go deep into the forest

With your support, AES has been able to make a three year commitment to VESSWIC to help them continue the work they are doing for the wildlife and humans living in Sumatra.

Leaving the transport cage

Leaving the transport cage

Field Update - Bear Rescue

Vanessa Gagne

On February 13, the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC) veterinarians visited the Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) in Minas to assist with the emergency treatment of a juvenile male elephant suffering from chronic weight loss and weakness.  Unfortunately, upon their arrival, the vets found the elephant had already collapsed and had been lying down for two days. After intensive emergency care, the elephant was able to regain its ability to stand up and walk around for a short time, but he sadly passed away the following day.  A post mortem was conducted and besides progressed emaciation, vast and chronic lesions were found in the lung tissues. Additional results from a laboratory are still awaited to determine the exact cause of death.

February 26 - March 1, VESSWIC veterinarians assisted the Nature Conservation Agency in Aceh Province with a sun-bear rescue.   Dr. Anhar Lubis, Aceh Province veterinarian Dr. Rosa, and Dr. Arman, a lecturer from the veterinary faculty in Aceh, joined in this operation.  The male juvenile sun-bear had a serious injury around his left front leg caused by a wire snare in which he had been trapped.  Villagers had released the bear from the snare a few days before the veterinarian team arrived in this remote location and kept him in a small cage. 
 
The infected wound was too serious to allow immediate release back into the wild, so the bear was taken to Nature Conservation Agency headquarters in Banda Aceh for quarantine and further treatment.  Thanks to VESSWIC providing all of the necessary supplies, drugs, and logistics, Dr. Rosa was able to extend the necessary treatment and care for the sun-bear for several weeks.  Currently two more juvenile sun-bears, recently confiscated from illegal trade, are in quarantine, and received intensive health checks and several medical treatments.  The three bears will be released back into the wild when all wounds are healed and the animals are in stable condition. 
 
During the treatment of the bears in quarantine, Dr. Arman and Dr. Arthur invited students from the veterinary faculty to participate in the treatment and handling of the bears. This allowed the veterinary students to get first-hand experience and training in providing the medical needs and the handling of wildlife.

Field Update - Snare Victim Yekti

Chris Reifschneider

In our January 2014 newsletter, AES announced our 3 year commitment to the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC). We would like to share an update on a couple of elephant projects from our VESSWIC partners.

The Sumatran elephant is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered, but every birth gives us hope for the future of this species.  On January 16, 2014 at the Way Kambas Elephant Conservation Center, the elephant Mela, gave birth to a healthy male calf weighing approximately 200 pounds.  This was Mela’s second calf.Unfortunately, she attacked and killed her first calf in 2011 immediately after it was born. This time she was a bit nervous, but remained reasonably calm towards the calf. After a short time she accepted the calf and allowed it to nurse. Two months later, she has adapted well to her role as a mother and the calf is doing well.

Back in November 2013, a female calf was rescued from the wild with a serious wire snare injury to her front left leg. VESSWIC provided the medical supplies for her treatment and is also providing food and milk supplements.  They are happy to report that the calf, named Yekti, is also doing well.

Human-elephant conflict (HEC) is still a growing problem for both humans and elephant in Sumatra, Indonesia.  In January VESSWIC Elephant Healthcare Program veterinarians assisted the Nature Conservation Agency and Frankfurt Zoological Society and fitted two wild elephants with GPS collars.  This is part of an HEC monitoring program that is being conducted in the Bukit Tiga Puluh forest area in the province of Jambi.

By working together, we can make a difference in the health, welfare, and conservation of elephants in Asian range countries.  AES is proud to support these dedicated individuals who are working hard every day.

 

Aceh Conservation, Environment, Humanity Program

Chris Reifschneider

A Real Team Effort..

Asian Elephant Support is participating in a significant endeavor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.   This innovative effort, the “Aceh Conservation, Environment, Humanity” (ACEH) program, is working to engage legislators in Aceh Province, Indonesia.

Conservation biologists alone have not been able to slow down the rapid decline in numbers of wildlife species and their wild habitats around the world.  Human-elephant conflict (HEC) has been identified as a major threat to elephant conservation by all Asian elephant range country governments.  The greatest danger HEC poses to elephants is the antagonism it generates among local communities toward wildlife.

The specific goals of ACEH are:

  • Strengthen the concept of “sustainable development”, which has been mandated by the Indonesian Constitution.
  • Support the formation and operation of the Aceh Sustainable Development Caucus.
  • Facilitate the flow of information about sustainable development to legislators in order to enhance the development of public policies that incorporate sustainability principles.
  • Provide technical consultation to Aceh’s Parliament on a variety of issues such as land-use planning.


In January and February of this year, the ACEH team devoted significant time to conducting presentations and meetings with 13 of the 15 political parties in Aceh during the lead up to the local elections in April.  ACEH is building a network of civil society organizations to contribute to this effort.  At present ACEH is planning the agenda and structure for the Caucus, which is expected to begin in October 2014 when newly elected legislators start their terms.

We want to share with you the ACEH brochure, in English, that summarizes this project.  We appreciate our supporters who, in turn, enable us to be a small part of this major effort for wildlife in Aceh and throughout Asia.

Aceh Brochure Page 1

Aceh Brochure Page 2

VESSWIC 3 Year committment

Vanessa Gagne

AES has been working with the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC) since 2010 to improve the health of the captive population of elephants in Sumatra, Indonesia.

VESSWIC's goal is to contribute to the conservation of Sumatran wildlife by providing various kinds of veterinary expertise and services. To achieve their goal, a wide range of conservation activities, projects, programs, and collaborators are needed. Sustainability of these efforts is critical, and sustainability requires regular and dependable funding.

AES has supported VESSWIC with specific needs for general veterinary care, elephant patrols, veterinary and mahout workshops, and urgent care for orphaned calves.

Now we are pleased to announce that we have made a commitment to VESSWIC of $5,000 annually for three consecutive years beginning January 2014.

Sustainability is a key strategic objective for all organizations, and a reliable source of income helps us make long-term commitments to projects such as VESSWIC to produce sustainable change over time. Some examples of welfare and conservation efforts that require long-term commitments include:

  • Regular veterinary care requires expertise and regular visits over extended periods.
  • Training and professional development can require hands-on and academic learning on an annual basis. Care for an orphaned calf may extend years after the initial emergency support.
  • Animal hospitals require ongoing operational costs.
  • Effective elephant patrol units require skilled mahouts and healthy and well-trained elephants that can patrol regularly to make a difference long term.


 

 

 

Mahout Workshop

Chris Reifschneider

The Sumatran Mahout Communication Forum (FOKMAS) was established in 2006 and was the first time Indonesian mahouts have organized as a professional entity. The goal of FOKMAS is to improve communications and provide ongoing training via various modules during the annual mahout workshops. These workshops are supported by the Indonesian government and various NGOs, including AES. They have increased the capacity of its membership to participate and provide meaningful data for Sumatra wildlife conservation, habitat protection efforts, and improved the care of the captive elephants.

Workshop participants posting with the elephants.

Workshop participants posting with the elephants.

The 6th mahout workshop was held from November 26 – 28 at the Elephant Conservation Center in Tangkahan, Sumatra and was attended by approximately 40 mahouts from around Indonesia. Director April Yoder was able to attend as a representative of AES.

There were presentations on various topics followed by hands-on demonstrations. The demonstrations included GPS training, the use of an ultrasound, footwork, obtaining field measurements to estimate the weight of an elephant, and actually weighing the elephants on a portable scale (donated by AES). These people are on the front lines of conservation in Indonesia, and it was wonderful to see, first-hand, the level of enthusiasm and participation by the mahouts.

Hands-on demonstration

Hands-on demonstration

Along with support for the workshop, AES also provided funding for a man named Sounthone Phitsamone (Kan), from the Elephant Conservation Center in Laos, PDR to attend this workshop. AES has supported the Center on various projects over the last couple of years. We felt it would be helpful for Kan to attend this workshop to gain valuable knowledge from the mahouts in Indonesia. In turn, he would share this information with the mahouts in Laos. View the Education and Travel Sponsorships page to read more about Kan's trip to the Mahout Workshop.

Kan modeling our bumper sticker

Kan modeling our bumper sticker

Raju, the orphaned calf

Chris Reifschneider

Emaciated Raju

Emaciated Raju

Raju was not even a month old when he became an orphan. With an increase in the number of humans and a decrease in elephant habitat in Sumatra, Indonesia, it is very possible that Raju’s mother was shot and killed as a result of human-elephant conflict (HEC). Our partners at Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC) rushed to the village to provide assistance for this tiny calf, which is not an easy task due to the remote location of many villages. Raju initially began to gain strength after receiving IV fluids and was tolerating the milk replacement. However, the harsh reality is that with an animal that young, the chances of survival are low and unfortunately, he did not survive.

Racju receiving the IV

Racju receiving the IV

HEC is a problem that continues to increase throughout Asia. While it is taking a toll on the current elephant population, it is also affecting the next generation. More and more calves are being orphaned as the number of conflicts increase.

By losing their mothers at an early age these orphans have an uphill battle to survive and calves as young as Raju have little chance of survival. HEC is an extremely complicated issue and it will take a holistic approach to achieve results, but the importance of this battle is apparent not only for the current population, but for generations to come.

Stay tuned for more information on efforts to mitigate HEC including the projects that AES supports with your help.

A Baby Update from Sumatra, Indonesia

Vanessa Gagne

The Sumatran elephant is now considered “critically “endangered, so every baby is even more important to the future of the species.  We have some good news to share about two orphaned elephants that AES has helped support.

Bona playing in the forest

Bona playing in the forest

We are pleased to share that little Bona is not so little anymore!  While she still enjoys the companionship of her “adopted mom”, Aswita, she is now completely weaned from the formula.  She has a healthy appetite, especially for fruit.

In our April 2013 newsletter, we introduced you to Agam, the baby elephant that fell into the abandoned well.  Thanks, in part, to your support, he is now in stable condition.  He is 9-10 months old now and has begun to eat solid foods.  His milk supplements can slowly be decreased, but he will still rely on the milk supplement for at least another 10 months.

Agam receiving his formula

Agam receiving his formula

We are very encouraged by the progress of these baby elephants and we are hopeful for their future.  Unfortunately, due to an increase in human-elephant conflict, there will be more babies that need our help.  The ability to act quickly in these situations is critical, so please consider making a donation to AES or signing up for our monthly giving program, so we can move quickly to help protect the future of Sumatra’s elephant population.

Traditional Knives for Mahouts in India

Chris Reifschneider

The Elephant Managers Association (EMA) is an international non-profit organization of professional elephant handlers, administrators, veterinarians, researchers, and elephant enthusiasts.  The EMA is dedicated to the welfare of the world's elephants through conservation, husbandry, research, education and communication. As elephant managers, the members believe the elephants in our country are ambassadors for their wild counterparts. As elephant caretakers, they also believe the members are ambassadors for the people who care for elephants in range countries. At the time of this project, all of the AES directors were active members of the EMA and we encourage everyone who cares about elephants to become a member. Please visit www.elephantmanagers.com to learn  more about the Elephant Managers Association.

Bull carrying fodder

Bull carrying fodder

In Asia there are a significant number of captive elephants in communities with little resources to provide all the supplies for the mahouts to properly care for their elephants.

The EMA's Conservation Committee Sponsorship Program was designed to support their counterparts, the mahouts, in elephant range countries.  In 2009, the EMA initiated the "Hoof Knives for Mahouts" program which raised enough funds to provide approximately 200 hoof knives to mahouts in Sumatra-Indonesia.

Trimming feet with a traditional knife

Trimming feet with a traditional knife

Asian Elephant Support (AES) has been working with a veterinarian in northeastern India to help improve the care of the elephants in this area.  A local traditional knife (khukri) is an integral part of the mahouts' daily lives in this region as they use them to cut fodder for elephants and trim the elephants' nails or pads.  However, many mahouts cannot afford proper tools and use crude handmade knives to do foot work on their elephants. Regardless of what job you are doing, everyone can appreciate having the right tools to get it done.

With your help, AES and EMA collaborated in raising enough money to purchase 100 khukri for mahouts in Assam (northeastern India).

AES and the EMA would like to sincerely thank everyone for their generous donations to the "Hoof Knives for Mahouts - India" project. This program raised $1755.52 to purchase these local knives for mahouts to enable them to improve the care of their elephants. A special thank you to the elephant staff and AAZK members at the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, NY, who raised $720.52 for this project!

Footwork discussion at Veterinary Workshop in India

Footwork discussion at Veterinary Workshop in India

This program is a great way to demonstrate that every donation, big or small, can make a difference for elephants and the people that care for them, in Asian range countries.

We are very pleased to report that the traditional knives are being distributed during veterinary visits to privately held elephants in Assam.

Meet Agam!

Vanessa Gagne

Agam was rescued by local villagers last December after he fell into an abandoned well in the province of Aceh, Sumatra.  It is estimated that he was 10 months old at the time.  

His herd was no longer in the area so Agam wandered around the vicinity of the village after his rescue.  The villagers were concerned that he would not survive without his family, so they contacted the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC).

One of the VESSWIC veterinarians spent several days caring for Agam while they searched for his family.  Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful, so the decision was made to take Agam to the Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) in Saree, Aceh. At the ECC he would have a better chance to survive with proper care and medical attention.  The VESSWIC veterinarians worked with the mahouts and local veterinarians to develop a nutritional food supplement.  While he will eat small amounts of banana, watermelon, grass, and leaves, a majority of his diet consists of this food supplement. Over the next couple of years the amount and composition of the food supplement will change as he grows.

Because of the support of our donors, AES was able to respond immediately to this critical situation and provide funding for Agam. AES has made a commitment to help fund his supplemental feeding for as long as it is necessary, so your continued support is crucial.

In March the VESSWIC veterinarians returned to Saree to check on Agam’s progress. We are happy to report that with your help, he is doing well and continues to thrive.