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Projects in Sumatra, Indonesia

Filtering by Tag: Elephant

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

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.

Regional Asian Elephant Veterinary Workshop

Chris Reifschneider

In 2011, AES received a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Asian Elephant Conservation Fund to support important educational opportunities for veterinarians from Asian elephant range countries. On March 27- 30,2012, AES president attended the Regional Asian Elephant Veterinary Workshop in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, along with our international advisor, Heidi Riddle.

Thirty-five veterinarians representing the Asian elephant range countries of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Nepal, Myanmar, Malaysia (Sabah) and Indonesia attended this four day workshop.  Veterinarians from Germany, Japan, and Singapore also participated. The goals of the workshop are to provide in-country veterinarians with a unique opportunity for building their own capacity by sharing experiences and gaining valuable knowledge about the health and well-being of Asian elephants. Most importantly, the workshop provides an opportunity to network with others in the region to ensure continued collaborations long after everyone has returned home.

The first day of the workshop was a full day of presentations. The topics included status and health care management of elephants in Myanmar, Providing care to elephants in Lao PDR, and Health management of captive elephants in Sumatra.

The second day began with a presentation followed by hands-on ultrasound demonstrations with six elephants, at the campus of the Syiah Kuala University. Workshop attendees were given an opportunity to ultrasound either a male or female elephant, and better understand the interpretation of the anatomical images.  In addition to the workshop attendees, veterinary students from the University’s Veterinary College also participated in this unique learning session.

Day three was one to celebrate.  We have all attended conferences where the attendees seem to fade with the passing days of papers, especially the long days of presentations.  Not at this workshop!   The presentations began at 8 a.m. and concluded at 7 p.m. and everyone was as alert and tuned in at 7 p.m. as they were when the day started. The presenters included veterinarians that AES has supported in various projects, such as Dr. Christopher Stremme from Sumatra-Indonesia, and Drs. Arun Zachariah and Kushal Sarma from India. These veterinarians have substantial experience with elephants and they understand the importance of sharing information with their peers.  It was a wonderful opportunity to visit in person with Drs. Stremme, Zachariah, and Sarma and hear the progress of their work.

The fourth and final day of the workshop was another hands-on demonstration with the elephants at the University campus.  This session covered foot care, methods of weighing (including a demonstration with one of the scales donated by AES), conducting a thorough general examination, and injection protocols. Once again the University veterinary students also participated.

Overall, the workshop was a success and was appreciated by all of the attendees. It was also a wonderful opportunity to meet veterinarians who are representatives of governmental and nongovernmental organizations from the various Asian elephant range countries. This workshop will certainly lead to further collaborative opportunities in the future, as we are most effective when we work together for the same objective of helping Asian elephants survive the challenges they face every day.

Portable Scales for VESSWIC

Vanessa Gagne

In 2010 our Board voted to purchase two portable scales for Vesswic’s use in caring for elephants in the Way Kambas ECC and other camps in Sumatra. We are happy to announce that they finally made it to Sumatra. One of  directors,  April Yoder, recently travelled to Sumatra and had the honor of delivering  the scales in person. (Please note that all travel expenses are paid with personal funding and not the foundation.)  

With the addition of two portable scales, VESSWIC veterinarians will now be able to accurately calculate dosages for medication and better monitor the general health of the elephants in the Elephant Conservation Centers.  With an animal as large as an elephant, it can be difficult to visualize weight lost until they have lost a significant amount.  Knowing the baseline weight of an elephant and being able to accurately determine weight on a regular basis can help the VESSWIC veterinarians detect possible health issues much sooner. Also, several babies have been born and it is critical to be able to monitor their weight as they grow to ensure they are healthy.  

The first place we used one of the scales was the EEC in Tangkahan. The mahouts fashioned a platform and each elephant in the camp calmly walked onto the platform to be weighed.  The elephants with calves were a little more challenging. Of course, the babies wanted to stay under mom so it took some coxing to get them to stand next to her, but not on the platform, so we could get her accurate weight.  

Often the weights are calculated by doing field measurements. However, because the results can vary depending on age groups it is not always accurate. To help better understand the correlation between actual weights and field measurements, measurements were also taken on each elephant at the same time.