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.
Projects in Sumatra, Indonesia
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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.
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.
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.
While elephants in range countries face many challenges in their daily lives, one of the medical issues they encounter is internal parasites. Elephants can become infected by ingesting food or water that contains parasite larva. Parasites can contribute to an overall decline in health by causing such conditions as anemia, weight loss, and diarrhea. In extreme cases, parasites may overwhelm an organ or body system resulting in death. The lack of appetite and poor food utilization caused by a large number of parasites can also inhibit the growth and maturation of young elephants. Occasionally, the adult parasites can be seen in the feces, but an infestation can also be detected by examining a fecal sample using a sedimentation and flotation method.
AES has been working with the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC) to improve the health of the captive population of elephants in Sumatra, Indonesia. Some of the parasites found in elephants in Sumatra include: Strongylus spec., Strongyloides spec. Ascaridae, Fasciola spec. Paramphistomoidea and Anoplocephala spec. To help control parasites in elephants, VESSWIC routinely deworms the captive elephant population every 3-4 months. Ivermectin is a broad spectrum anti parasitic that is often given in combination with other medications to treat internal parasites in elephants.
As a result of conversations with the VESSWIC veterinary staff and our international advisors, the board unanimously voted to make a donation to VESSWIC to purchase 250 mg of Ivermectin to help treat the elephants in Sumatra. Having accurate weights is critical for determining the proper dosage of any medication. The portable scales that AES purchased last year will be put to good use in determining the weight of the elephants, so they are given the correct amount of dewormer.
Sometimes it can be very tricky to get this intelligent animal to take medication. If they can taste it, they will often just spit it out. One way to make sure the medication is taken is to hide it in a favorite food. In Sumatra, they use fruits such as bananas and pineapples to help mask the taste of the dewormer.
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.