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Projects in Sumatra, Indonesia

Filtering by Tag: Indonesia

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.

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

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.

Update from Sumatra: veterinary work, calves born to Olive and Yuni

Vanessa Gagne

Our latest update from Sumatra is a testimony to the scope of happenings one encounters when working for and with Asian elephants.

Collaboration and learning are keywords in our campaign to help both captive and wild Asian elephants. In the past couple of months, Christopher’s group hosted Dr. Satya P. G. Bhalla, who is a veterinarian from Corbett Tiger Reserve.  Dr. Bhalla came to volunteer and guest lecture to the veterinary faculty in Banda Aceh about conservation medicine and veterinary needs in his national park.  Dr. Sonja Luz, a wildlife veterinarian from Singapore, who works on many conservation projects in south Asia and Africa, was also a guest lecturer addressing conservation medicine, reptile husbandry and medical care.  

Facilitating the exchange of information and knowledge is an important part of improving our care of not only Asian elephants but all wildlife, and we certainly appreciate their extra effort in this direction.

Unfortunately, not all AES news is as positive and encouraging. Several weeks ago, a morning began with the call that’s never wanted:  Edi, one of the elephants at ECC Holiday Resort, was found dead.  Christopher rushed to perform a necropsy, but the cause of death was not clearly revealed, so now we wait for the results from the lab.  Prompt necropsies help us learn and expand our knowledge for ever-improving care. None the less, it is never easy to lose an elephant, especially when it is sudden and unexpected.  We share in their loss.

In the beginning of December an emergency call came in from Aceh, as one of the male elephants in musth had attacked and seriously injured its mahout.  The elephant was out of control, attacking people and cars on the main road. A standing sedation had to be administered from a distance using a blow pipe.  The elephant’s long tusks were trimmed for safety and he was secured with a 20’ chain to a tree with easy access to food and water.  Until he is no longer in musth, the elephant will still be restrained in the forest and looked after by the mahouts. His mahouts will move his location daily by luring him with bananas so that the chain can be removed and he is then relocated to an area with fresh fodder.

Tusk trim on sedated bull

Tusk trim on sedated bull

Were it not for the vets and their ability to help bring this musth bull under control, the outcome would surely be grim!  We so appreciate these people who make it possible for such animals to be taken care of for their own safety as well as the people in the area.

Now some very happy news!    In November, Olive gave birth to her first calf, a very tiny (for an elephant!) but agile and healthy little girl.  On December 4th, Yuni at Tangkahan gave birth to a male calf weighing about 70 kg.  It is Yuni’s first calf and she is taking very good care of her baby and both mother and calf are in good health.  Now the two mothers often stay together, giving the calves the chance to play and socialize.  These are the moments that lift our hearts and reaffirm why we care so very much.

And it’s not always just about elephants.  During Christopher’s last visit to Aceh, he examined a tiger, which had been captured in central Aceh after killing some cattle and two villagers in the past three months.  The tiger was sedated for a general health examination and found to be in good health and, according to his teeth, was estimated to be 6 to 7 years old.  At the time of Christopher’s writing, the tiger was still in quarantine, while options for release in a remote forest area are considered and evaluated.   This is an example of people working primarily with one species and being in the position to help others. Thanks to Christopher and the Vesswic veterinarians, and here’s to a very good 2011 for our Sumatran friends, both two and four-legged!