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Projects in India

Update from the Field

Chris Rico

Dr. Sarma was busy in September with the floods in India.

Here, he can be seen treating Jonmani (50) and Rupaliod (14), who were stranded in rising waters.  

Field Update from Dr. Sarma: The 138th Rogue!

Chris Rico

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The 138th rogue that Dr. Kushal helped capture and return to his owner is Raja, a makhna (tuskless male elephant) belonging to a Nepali farmer from the Indo-Bangladesh border in the high hills of Meghalaya.  This rescue required a 12 hour road trip, the last 5 hours of which are off road driving.  Dr. Kushal advised his car required a good after care upon completion of this campaign.  The medicines used included drugs AES had previously supplied Dr. Kushal. An entire night was spent in the jungle around a fire to save them from the chill.  Tea in an improvised tea cup, time spent waiting on a treetop for the rogue, and a charging elephant, is all part of such an operation!

Field Update from Dr. Sarma

Vanessa Gagne

A field update from Dr. Kushal Sarma:

I have just returned from a hectic trip. An elephant corridor was mistakenly allotted for an industry.  The fallout: a two month old calf falls into a 12’ ditch dug for construction of a shed.  The mother tries to rescue the baby and also falls in.  Another female comes to their rescue and also falls into the ditch.  The third elephant was not injured much and when machinery sliced off one side of the ditch, she was able to move out.  The mother of the calf had head injuries and was unconscious until I arrived.  Triamcinolone acetonide, mannitol and neurotropic vitamins did not help.  It was determined her lumbar spine was broken and she had a cerebral concussion.  She could not be saved.  The calf was rescued and sent to a rescue center as he needed to be fed formula.

The following two days I organized health camps for 14 private elephants: 4 in Sonitpur district and 10 tourist elephants Kalita’s camp at Kaziranga National Park. There were two minor operations as well as the regular deworming and vaccinations.”

While we wish all field updates had happy outcomes that sadly is not the reality of the Asian elephant in range countries today.   We are happy to be able to help Dr. Kushal and all the caring and dedicated veterinarians we work with – who are there to help, regardless the situation – and thank you so very much for your support!

 

Elephant and Tiger Workshop

Vanessa Gagne

Regional Asian Elephant and Tiger Veterinary Workshop in Kerala, India

Dr. Arun Zachariah1, 2; Heidi S. Riddle3

1 Centre for Wildlife Studies, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Science University; 2 Department of Forest and Wildlife, Government of Kerala; 3 Asian Elephant Support

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Elephant and tiger veterinarians from around Asia participated in the Regional Asian Elephant and Tiger Veterinary Workshop held in Pookode, Kerala, India, from February 1-4, 2016.  This Workshop was jointly hosted by the Centre for Wildlife Studies, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Science University, and the Department of Forest and Wildlife, Government of Kerala. The Workshop was supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Asian Elephant Conservation Fund in collaboration with Asian Elephant Support.

The Regional Asian Elephant and Tiger Veterinary Workshop continued the efforts of two earlier regional Workshops hosted in Aceh, Sumatra-Indonesia in March 2012, and in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar in March 2014.  These Workshops build local and regional capacity in elephant veterinary care which improves the expertise needed for effective wildlife conservation in Asia. The Kerala Workshop included tiger health issues to broaden the scope of wildlife health and strengthen the capacity of field veterinarians in range countries.  Asian elephants and tigers are highly endangered and in threat of local extinction in some range countries.  Veterinary expertise is important to conservation efforts, especially at the interface of wildlife, humans, and livestock, and for mitigating human-wildlife conflicts.  The Regional Asian Elephant and Tiger Veterinary Workshop addressed wildlife health from the ecosystem perspective and discussed topics such as disease spill over from humans and/or livestock to wildlife, emerging diseases and/or disease prevalence, as well as reducing stressors in the environment.

Evidence of emerging diseases in wildlife has already been established in Kerala.  Furthermore, in the past two years, Kerala experienced more than 200 cases of elephant and tiger conflict incidents causing loss to human life, property, and agriculture; 44 of these incidents required health and veterinary expertise.  Wildlife health studies have been ongoing in this region, and this Workshop served as a catalyst for networking with the wider regional communities of wildlife health experts in Asia.

Presentations covered not only veterinary issues but also broader topics of human-wildlife conflicts, Asian elephant and tiger ecology and behavior, and also introduced Siberian tiger health issues.  The Regional Asian Elephant and Tiger Veterinary Workshop hosted almost 70 participants, including representatives from many of the Asian elephant and tiger range countries such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, as well as veterinarians from Great Britain, and U.S.

The Workshop offered a field visit to a nearby protected area, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, which has wild populations of elephants and tigers.  Additionally a Forest Department elephant camp is located in the Reserve.  Participants were able to view wild elephants during a drive through the Reserve.  At the elephant camp, Forest Department staff discussed the camp elephant management and feeding strategies, as well as elephant health issues.  This visit was a unique opportunity for participants to see the traditional use of Forest Department elephants in a protected area in India, and discuss the comprehensive veterinary program that the Department has in place for these working elephants.

These Regional Veterinary Workshops underscore the importance of veterinary science for wild and captive elephant and tiger conservation in Asian range countries.  As a result of these three workshops, there is better communication amongst wildlife veterinarians in Asia, and the sharing of information and experiences has increased.  Additionally several field course initiatives to continue practical training opportunities for wildlife veterinarians in Asia have resulted from these Workshops.

 

Mayapur Temple Elephants with Dr. Sarma

Vanessa Gagne

An account by Ms. Hrimati Dasi, 

Dr. Sarma’s visit started with me fetching him from the Kolkata airport. The 3-4 hour car ride via the bumpy and crowded National highway 34, is filled up with talks about the doctor's past elephant adventures.

We arrive late in Mayapur and I check him into his guest room, which I had pre booked for him. After Kushal stopped at my house for a hot and fresh  cup of my own cow's milk, I equip the doctor with my extra bicycle, so he can easily make it early in the morning to the Mayapur elephant care center.

Our elephants rise from their slumber before sunrise and are bathed and groomed by their dedicated mahouts and taken out for their routine morning walk.

I meet the Doctor at 6:30 am at the care center, setup the microscope and prepared the elephant dung for examination. The doctor was very satisfied with the findings. No fasicola and only one strongyloid ova was found. As we discussed the course of treatment and a deworming schedule.  Our beautiful young ladies, Laksmipriya and Bishnupriya entered the gate to the care center from their morning walk.

After they drank water, I took their body measurements, while the Doctor wrote it down in the medical register.  

Krishna Pada Ghosh, a local Veterinary assistant, joined us to administer tetanus vaccinations to the elephants. After they were vaccinated, it was time to inspect the bottom of the elephant's feet. "It's not too bad." said the doctor, "only a little trimming of the nails is needed."

Three mahouts, Mintu, Bharat and Ajay, Dr. Sarma and myself, all got to do the pedicure on our Princesses!  Having the girls lay down on their sides is the most practical way to get the foot work done.  Because we routinely give foot care to the elephants, they are very cooperative and calm while getting their pedicure done.

After being so well behaved and patient with us, the girls received some more extra fresh cut grass from our grass cutting crew.

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While the elephants munched on their breakfast, their doctor discussed their general diet plan and fodder varieties with us. To keep the elephants in topmost health, we grow organically a variety of fodder 'in house' for them, according to season.

In the afternoon, after another bath, we hand fed their rations, which consists of soaked chickpeas, multi mineral/vitamin powder and black salt or/and natural rock salt, which gets wrapped in banana leaf.

Our mahouts know Dr. Sarma well. In their native State of Assam, elephant keeping is an age old tradition. So, when the doctor visits, they discuss elephants, many elephants. It is always a pleasure to listen in on their elephant adventure stories.

Before retiring for the night, I gave Kushal a little tour of our temple compound. We visited some shops and even bought a nice shirt for him to bring back home to his daughter.

The next morning was Sunday and, like every Sunday, time for a long walk to the next village Rajapur. It takes about an hour and a half for the elephants to walk to the mango groves in Rajapur, where a nice healthy breakfast of napier grass was waiting for them, before returning back to Mayapur.

In Mayapur it was time for our breakfast and to say goodby to the Doctor.

While I read the health report for our two elephants, Laksmipriya and Bishnupriya, I am thankful that they are able to receive the best possible medical care. Dr. Kushal Sarma has already many more elephants waiting for him, not only in Assam, but many other places in India.

Thank you AES, for making it possible.



 

Funding for Mayapur Temple Elephants' Medical Care

Vanessa Gagne

Ms. Dasi with Laksmipriya 

Ms. Dasi with Laksmipriya 

AES is pleased to announce we were able to secure funding to Dr. Sarma for the continuing medical care of the Mayapur Temple elephants Laksmipriya and Bishnupriya under the care of Ms. Hrimati Dasi.  The two female elephants arrived to the temple separately some time ago.  Ms. Dasi employs three mahouts to care for the elephants as well as herself.  Dr. Sarma has taught her how to do some medical care as well as footwork, which is essential to elephant health.  

Ms. Dasi performing foot work on one of the girls

Ms. Dasi performing foot work on one of the girls

The two girls have been provided with a well rounded diet and are able to forage the area around the temple to graze which has brought them into healthy weights.  We look forward to more updates from Ms. Dasi and Dr. Sarma throughout the next year as he stops in for their routine check ups.  

Dr. Sarma, with a smile that only an elephant can give you.  

Dr. Sarma, with a smile that only an elephant can give you.  

Dr. Sarma Update

Vanessa Gagne

Dr. Kushal Sarma, whom you may remember from previous elephant health clinics AES funded and the electrocuted bull elephant he got back on his feet has continued to be, in his words: ' badly busy'!

Dr. Sarma on far right directing a health clinic for mahouts and their charges

Dr. Sarma on far right directing a health clinic for mahouts and their charges

Recently, he had a call to come immediately to the neighboring state of Nagaland, where human-elephant conflict struck again.  A wild bull killed four villagers and the angry residents threatened to kill him if Dr. Sarma could not remove him.  Luckily, he was immobilized and relocated successfully.  Not too soon thereafter a stranded elephant washed down the Brahmaputra into Bangladesh and desperately needed the doctor's expertise to be returned to its home.  Dr. Sarma made the trip to help it out of its dire straits.  The flooding in the area has created a disastrous situation for wildlife and humans alike.   

2015 Sonepur Mela

Vanessa Gagne

Billboard advertising the Sonepur Mela

Billboard advertising the Sonepur Mela

A GATHERING OF ELEPHANTS: The Sonepur Mela, Bihar, India
 

The Sonepur Mela, also known as the Harihar Kshetra Mela, is held every year during November-December and is Asia’s largest cattle fair.  The major attraction is the trading of livestock such as horses, bulls, buffaloes, camels, dogs, and birds.  Elephants are also a special attraction of the Mela.  

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has been conducting health camps for captive elephants in the town of Sonepur since 2001 and AES was able to help support the 2015 health care camp.  Attendance has been spiraling downward from 92 elephants in 2001 to only 14 in 2015, a decline of 84% in 14 years. This is mainly due to increasing regulations regarding the movement, sale, and trading of captive elephants.  

During the Mela, WTI will de-worm all the elephants, treat any minor wounds, and give the mahouts instructions on foot care.  Data is also collected each year to record the status of elephants participating in the Mela.  Responses from owners and mahouts showed that the average length of time a mahout cares for the same elephant is 4.18 years, which is not considered sufficient for good bonding between mahout and elephant.  However, all elephants were reported to be obedient and none of elephants had any history of killing or injuring a mahout.  Of the data collected, one was a temple elephant, four worked in the tourist industry, and six were unemployed.  All elephants had some sort of shelter at their area of residence, both day and night.  All except one was off tether for at least some portion of each day and the mahouts claimed all the elephants are walked during the day.  Only one elephant was kept in a group of more than one elephant, 11 have some opportunity to interact with other elephants, and three could not interact with other elephants.

Mahouts take measurements on a bull to estimate weight

Mahouts take measurements on a bull to estimate weight

While the results of the information gathered at the Mela leave us with at least as many questions as answers provided, it is important to track such statistics as we consider the current status and future of India’s magnificent Asian elephants.  If you would like to read more the report from the 2015 Sonepur Mela, please visit our website here.  Our thanks to YOU, our donors, for supporting these efforts.

 

Visit to Dr. Kushal and Elephant/Tiger Workshop in Kerala

Vanessa Gagne

February 1st-4th, 2016, Asian Elephant Support’s president, Linda Reifschneider, attended the Regional Asian Elephant and Tiger Veterinary Workshop at Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Pookode, Wayanad, Kerala, India.  This event was hosted by the Centre for Wildlife Studies, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, in collaboration with Parambikulam Tiger Conservation Foundation, Forest and Wildlife Department, Government of Kerala, and Asian Elephant Support.  The workshop is supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Asian Elephant Conservation Fund.

All workshop participants

All workshop participants

Veterinary expertise is crucial to conservation efforts, and this workshop provided the opportunity to share experiences regionally, provide practical training, build local and regional capacity in elephant and tiger veterinary care, and enhance veterinary expertise needed for effective conservation.

The workshop looked at wildlife health from the ecosystem perspective and afforded the opportunity to discuss topics such as disease spillover from humans and/or livestock to wildlife, emerging diseases and/or disease prevalence, as well as reducing stressors in the environment.

In addition to meeting and hearing from some experienced elephant veterinarians previously unknown to AES, it was also very interesting to listen to those veterinarians working with tigers in range countries. It makes one stop to think that this majestic creature is now facing yet another challenge as habitat loss brings domestic canines into proximity, offering up the very real threats of distemper and rabies.

Dr. Arun Zachariah, one of the veterinarians in India AES has funded, co-chaired this event with AES consultant Heidi Riddle.  In addition, Dr. Zachariah presented on emerging diseases in Asian elephants and a second presentation on post-mortem techniques in Asian elephants and tigers.  You may find the official report here:  https://gallery.mailchimp.com/6008a9e8fff086bcf7caed1f8/files/AES_Elephant_Tiger_Workshop_Kerala_2016.docx

Dr. Christopher Stremme presented on the work he is doing in Sumatra (work AES continues to help fund) and also participated with Dr. Dennis Schmitt in a demonstration of ultra-sonography in Asian elephants.  Dr. Khajohnpat Boonprasert (“Dr. Yeaw”) who has helped us help wildlife department veterinarians in Vietnam, recounted the work being done at The Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, Thailand.  And Dr. Zaw Min Oo, who AES has worked with in Myanmar, also presented.

Dr. Meenakshi Nagendran, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, discussed the global population status and conservation of programs for both Asian elephants and tigers and Sri. Ajay Desai, IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group, discussed human/wildlife conflict relative to Asian elephants and tigers and a second presentation on the ecology and evolution of Asian elephants.

The papers session ended with an evening showcasing amazing demonstrations of sand art, followed by a traditional fire dance.

The workshop ended with a planned field visit to the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, which has wild tigers, elephants, and other wildlife.  Dr. N. Kalaivanan led the field visit to the Mudumalai elephant camp, sharing camp management protocols with workshop participants from outside the area, as well as introducing us to camp staff and some of the camp elephants.  Dr. Kalaivanan also gave a presentation during the workshop on the chemical immobilization and translocation of Asian elephants.

Learning…..sharing…..networking…..  It is efforts such as this that grow long past ‘the event’.  Having not only another email address, but knowing the face and the expertise of that new contact to share ideas with and ask questions of – this is what helps move the care and conservation of Asian elephants – and tigers! – forward.  Your support well invested and for which we thank you most sincerely!

Mahout Workshops in India

Chrissie Jenkins

In Southern India, in the state of Karnataka, a majority of the of the Forest Department camp mahouts have been working with elephants for generations, but are rarely exposed to current information about elephants and elephant management. Due mainly to human-elephant conflict, new elephants are arriving at the camps from various parts of the State.   

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As a result, the Karnataka Forest Department is recruiting new mahouts and Kavadis (assistant mahouts) to care for the 122 elephants.  Elephants and mahouts benefit greatly from training and being giving an opportunity to share information.

Our partner and friend, S. Mamatha (pictured above on the left), saw an opportunity to improve the lives of the elephants and mahouts and organized mahout workshops on September 5th-7th at the Dubare, Balle, and Rampura elephant camps.

Utilizing presentations, discussions, and hands-on activities, the workshop addressed topics including challenges in the daily work with elephants, habitat conservation efforts, and captive elephant management.  A questionnaire was part of the registration process and provided a lot of valuable information needed to establish a future network of communication both locally and regionally.  

AES advisor, Heidi Riddle, was also on hand to share her knowledge of elephant care and management in other Asian countries and western facilities. 
 
The Forest Department staff and mahouts enjoyed the workshop, provided a lot of positive feedback, and expressed an interest in future programs. We thank YOU, our supporters, for helping us sponsor Mamatha's work and appreciate your continued support!

 

Mahout Interactive Program

Chris Reifschneider

Asian Elephant Support funded a meeting of mahouts and kavadis in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve and National Park this past January.  Ms. Mamatha, an educator, conducted the survey.  In these times the traditional way of living with elephants as a mahout is falling by the wayside.  With that declining culture there will also be a loss of traditional knowledge.  Mamatha’s goal was to gather information from these mahouts to begin recording this hands on knowledge for all to use.  As the plight of the Asian elephant does seem dismal at times, perhaps we can find a viable solution to preserve them hidden within the lives of mahouts.  It was found that overall, the mahouts put their charge’s welfare first and foremost and that the close bond between mahout and elephant was their favorite part of the job.  Then, the history of the camps in the Mysore area was discussed as well as different training methods that had been passed down.  In the future, all those involved would like to host another meeting that includes even more mahouts from the surrounding areas for gathering of information.  AES provided shirts, caps, and bumper stickers to all participants.

2014 Sonepur Mela

Vanessa Gagne

Sonepur is a small town in the State of Bihar in eastern India.  Every year, in November or December, the town holds its annual Mela, a fair held at the confluence of the Ganges and Gandak rivers.  The Sonepur Mela is Asia’s largest cattle fair, the main attraction being the trading of livestock such as horses, bullocks, buffaloes, camels, dogs, and birds.  Elephants are also a special attraction at the Mela and some of the largest numbers are traded here.  

Since 2001, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has offered an elephant health camp at the Mela, conducted in association with the Department of Environment and Forests, Bihar, and with financial support from various organizations.  In 2014, AES was pleased to support this effort.  The number of elephants being brought to the Mela reflects the overall diminishing number of Asian elephants.  Until the late 1980s, as many as 800-1,000 elephants would be brought to the Mela for trading and display. Since 2001, the number has been under 100 and the last five years the number has held steady around 40 elephants.  More stringent regulations on elephant ownership and transit may also contribute to this decline in attendance.

WTI deworms all elephants at the Mela and offers other medicines and treatments, such as foot care, as needed.  The average age of the mahouts in attendance was 40.89 including the eldest at 70 with around 50 years of experience and the youngest at 22 with already 10 years of experience.  All mahouts have handled more than one elephant in their career, with around 63% of them handling between 5 and 20 elephants.  On the average, elephants get a new mahout every three years; not a sufficient length of time for good bonding between the elephant and mahout per WTI.  The mahouts spend from 6 to 24 hours daily with their elephants, a good third of them spending the entire day with their elephant.  The Mela affords WTI the important opportunity to introduce mahouts and owners to western medicines and husbandry procedures. And the data collected is helpful in assessing and tracking the elephants that are changing ownership during this annual fair.

Elephants on the Line - Bhutan and India

Chris Reifschneider

Mamatha

Mamatha

Part of the AES mission statement is “to increase awareness and offer support for human-elephant coexistence to help protect the needs and future of the Asian elephants”.  Over the past couple of years, AES has supported Mamatha Sathyanarayana,  a high school Biology teacher from Mysore, India.   Along with her teaching responsibilities, she is also involved with wildlife conservation. She facilitates workshops about wildlife co-existence (elephants, in particular)  for the local village children.  In October 2014 we had the opportunity to support Mamatha to attend and facilitate educational workshops in Bhutan. The North East India and Bhutan border is home to a sizable population of Asian elephants.  Elephants on the Line (EoL) is an organization that is collaborating between Bhutan, India and US partners to address the major human-elephant conflict issues in this area.   In 2014 the focus of EoL is the Udalguri District of Assam, India, which has one of the highest HEC rates in all of Asia. The following is Mamatha’s account of the workshops:

Elephants on the Line Education Workshops

Bhutan and Assam, India, October 2014

Role playing exercise

Role playing exercise

Elephants on the Line (EoL) is a trans-boundary, community based project that has been initiated to help local communities in Northern Assam and Southern Bhutan deal with human elephant conflict by providing awareness activities and encouraging villagers to voluntarily participate in conservation activities. From October 3-5, a two-day education workshop was held at the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan. The workshop was organized by the EoL project and was attended by about 20 staff from the Bhutan Forest Department, as well as some volunteers from the Assam EoL project.

During the workshop there were presentations about the status of elephants in Bhutan and in Assam, elephant behavior, causes of Human-Elephant conflict (HEC), and addressing conflict through coexistence.  I led the workshop components that specifically addressed coexistence and used various activities to share information and engage participants.  The activities included having participants develop short dramas, participate in a role play situation, and learning how to use energizers to refocus participants’ attention and teach. While at the Park all participants also enjoyed an evening session about elephant husbandry and care with the camp elephants that are used to patrol the park.

Workshop participants

Workshop participants

From Oct 6-8, a second workshop was held in Orang National Park, Assam (India).  The area affected is Udalguri District; there have been many human casualties from HEC as well as some elephant casualties in this region. In this workshop all of the participants were local villagers who are directly affected by HEC.  The workshop started with presentations about the causes of HEC, as well as the use of maps and GPS units to identify elephant habitat.  We also presented a few activities related to coexistence and the participants were very engaged. 

AES would like to thank Mamatha for her hard work for Asian elephants in India.  We are proud to support local people that are so dedicated to saving this amazing species and finding ways for elephants and humans to co-exist. 

Elephant Day in Assam, India

Vanessa Gagne

Half-way around the world, Dr. Kushal Sarma also celebrated Elephant Day. He held the event at the Assam Agricultural University on September 21st.  The event had to be scheduled early due to school closures, but we don’t think the elephants minded, at least not the two that took part in this celebration, as they were treated to sugarcane, banana stems, and soaked gram (a popular legume found in many Indian dishes)!

The celebration started with a demonstration of elephant healthcare procedures followed by an exhibition of elephant literature, lectures, and a video.  The program started at 7 a.m. and lasted until 1:30 p.m. and included tea and snacks for the participants.  The four mahouts received Asian Elephant Support shirts (see the pictures) and the 35 participating veterinary students received a copy of Dr. Sarma’s book, Elephant Care, and a participation certificate.

Thank you, Dr. Sarma, for providing your students this extra learning opportunity!

Hope for Elephants in India!

Vanessa Gagne

Our collaborative campaign with Hope Elephants, “Partners for Pachyderms”, has come to an end and we are thrilled to say it was a success!  We surpassed our goal and raised $2105 for Dr. Kushal Sarma’s Elephant Healthcare and Emergency Response Program in Assam, India.  We are truly grateful to everyone that has made it possible for Dr. Sarma to continue his  amazing work for these elephants. 

Partnering for pachyderms

Vanessa Gagne

A Caring Collaboration for Asian Elephants

 Our story
Asian Elephant Support (AES) and Hope Elephants are working together to improve the lives of elephants living in the wild and in human care. 

Hope Elephants is a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization that is bringing a small number of retired or injured Asian elephants to Maine from circus herds for care and rehabilitation. Hope Elephants is also an educational destination where visitors, especially school-age children, have an opportunity to see, hear, and interact with the animals as a platform to present the big issues surrounding conservation, habitat destruction, and ecology.

Asian Elephant Support is also a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization that supports the care and conservation of elephants inAsian range countries.  AES’s mission is to:

  •  Provide financial assistance and support for the health, welfare and conservation of elephants in Asian range countries.
  • Provide educational opportunities and supplies to those who care for captive Asian elephants in range countries.
  • Increase awareness and offer support for human-elephant coexistence to help protect the needs and future of the Asian elephant.

By combining efforts, resources, and expertise, we can accomplish more and make a greater impact for elephants in Asian range countries.

The impact
This project will directly benefit the wild and captive population of elephants in Assam, India.  Even though elephants play an important role in the culture and religion of India, there are relatively few individuals with elephant veterinary expertise.   Often the elephants live in remote locations and are difficult to reach, which makes responding to emergency situations more challenging. 

AES has been workingwith Dr. Kushal Sarma since 2011 to improve the lives of the elephants in Assam.  Because of his knowledge and willingness, Dr. Sarma is called to respond to health related elephant emergencies when needed.  As human-elephant conflict increases, so does the number of emergency situations.

What we need
The funds raised in this project will be used to support Dr. Sarma’s Elephant Healthcare and Welfare- Emergency Response Program in Assam, India. By being able to respond to emergency situations, the wild and captive elephants will receive the desperately needed veterinary care they deserve.

Our minimum ask is $2000 and any additional funds will be used to provide medicine and supplies for Dr. Sarma’s Elephant Health Care Clinics throughout Assam.

We will be sending out more information about this soon, but feel free to visit our website if you can't wait to learn more!

A Success Story: Wild Bull Saved from Electrocution

Vanessa Gagne

Every day there are more reports of human-elephant conflict (HEC) in Asia.  In the Paneri tea estate in the Udalguri district of Assam, India, there is a herd of approximately 200 elephants. The elephants’ natural habitat has been completely destroyed so they take refuge in the tea estates during the day and descend on the farmers’ paddy fields and orchards at sunset. On August 28, 2013, a young bull elephant (approximately 18 years old) was electrocuted by live wires that had been left on the ground in the tea estate.  In most cases of electrocution, the elephant dies, but luckily, this bull was still alive.  Dr. Kushal Sarma, our veterinary partner in Assam, was immediately notified of the incident. He was able to send local vets to the site to provide initial treatment until he could arrive. Once he arrived, Dr. Sarma administered additional medications, including IV fluids.

The future looked grim for this wild bull!

The future looked grim for this wild bull!

By the time the bull was beginning to show signs of improvement, approximately 2000 people had gathered around the elephant. Dr. Sarma had to remove the onlookers and bring in a back hoe to help get the bull to his feet.  At first, the bull stumbled a little, but quickly regained his balance and walked off to join a herd of elephants about 400 meters away.  Dr. Sarma said, “He stood and threw a rare glance of gratitude towards me and walked away towards the herd  . . .” Follow up reports from the tea estate manager state that the bull appears to be fine and is not showing any permanent effects from his close call.  

This case confirms the talent and dedication of Dr. Sarma, and AES is very pleased to be working with such an extraordinary individual.  Thank you Dr. Sarma for sharing this case history and thank you to our supporters for making it possible for AES to support dedicated people working to help elephants and their mahouts throughout Asia.

Elephant Health Clinics Update

Vanessa Gagne

With your support, Dr. Kushal Sarma continues to do amazing work for Asian elephants and the people who care for them in Assam, India.  Recently he conducted an elephant health care clinic in the Orang National Park and was able to treat 32 government forest camp elephants.  Orang National Park is located on the north bank of the Brahmaputra River and is home to many species including Indian rhinos, Bengal tigers, and Asian elephants.  The park is 78 square kilometers, but is encircled on three sides by people who are quickly encroaching on the land.  The human-elephant conflict is a growing problem in this area, so the elephants are utilized in anti-poaching patrols and to encourage the wild elephant population to stay within the safety of the park boundaries. 

This was a routine health care clinic and all the elephants were vaccinated against tetanus and hemorrhagic septicemia (an acute bacterial infection).  In addition, some routine stool examinations were conducted and the elephants were given de-worming medication.  All of the females and any bulls that appeared weak were given multi-vitamin and multi-mineral mixtures plus vitamin injections.

Dr. Sarma explaining a medical point to students

Dr. Sarma explaining a medical point to students

In addition to helping elephants, AES believes it is important to help the people who care for the elephants.  Most of the people at this clinic are poor and have very few resources to care for the elephants.  Dr. Sarma was able to distribute 40 uniform shirts and an additional 5 khukries (traditional knives).  The knives are used to trim the elephants’ feet and to cut fodder for the elephants, making them a valuable tool in improving the health of the elephants. The uniforms give the mahouts a sense of pride and ownership in the role they play conserving elephants in Assam. 

Mahouts in their new uniforms

Mahouts in their new uniforms

A special surprise occurred during the clinic when a beautiful wild bull visited the camp out of curiosity!  Upon inquiring, we were happily advised that he has many girlfriends in the elephant camps in this area and most of the calves born to captive mothers are sired by him.  However, we don’t believe he stayed around for foot care or vaccinations!

Wild bull came to visit

Wild bull came to visit

Dr. Sarma also advised he organized an Elephant Day at his college on October 2nd and has this report:

 “As a part of the countrywide celebration of “Wild Life Week” in the first week of October, the 2nd October, 2013 was celebrated as “Elephant Day”  with the initiative of the Department of Surgery & Radiology, College of Veterinary Science, Khanapara with various day long programmes. The celebration started with life demonstration of elephant healthcare procedures to the fourth and fifth year
BVSc & A.H. as well as some post graduate students by the experts of the department which was followed by an exhibition of rare books on elephants. In the next half of the programme, power point presentations were made on various topics involving the elephantsby Dr(Ms) Munmun Sarma, Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy & Histology, Dr. G. Mahato, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Dr. Bijoy Dutta, Associate Professor, Surgery & Radiology and Dr. Kushal Konwar Sarma, Professor & Head of the Department of Surgery & Radiology who is an internationally renownedexpert on elephants. Dr. R. N. Goswami, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science and Dr. A. Chakroborty, Director of Research (Vety) also addressed the students on the occasion.” 

Our supporters of the “Hoof knives for Mahouts-India” program will be pleased to know that the knives are being distributed carefully and are greatly appreciated.  Please watch for future updates from
Dr. Sarma and feel free to cheer for the beautiful wild bull! 

 

Hoof Knife Campaign Results

Vanessa Gagne

In October 2012, Asian Elephant Support (AES) and the Elephant Managers Association (EMA) joined forces to raise money to purchase local traditional knives (khukri) for mahouts (elephant keepers) in Assam, India.  These knives are an integral part of the mahouts' daily lives as they use them to cut fodder for elephants and trim the elephants' nails or pads.

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 $1,755.52 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!    

Regardless of what job you are doing, everyone can appreciate having the right tools to get it done. 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.

With your help we are making a difference! Stay tuned for more updates from the field on this project.

Dr. Sarma teaching mahouts how to use the khukri

Dr. Sarma teaching mahouts how to use the khukri

Elephant Health Clinics in India

Chris Reifschneider

September 2013

With your support, Dr. Kushal Sarma continues to do amazing work for Asian elephants and the people who care for them in Assam, India.  Recently he conducted an elephant health care clinic in the Orang National Park and was able to treat 32 government forest camp elephants.  Orang National Park is located on the north bank of the Brahmaputra River and is home to many species including Indian rhinos, Bengal tigers, and Asian elephants.  The park is 78 square kilometers, but is encircled on three sides by people who are quickly encroaching on the land.  The human-elephant conflict is a growing problem in this area, so the elephants are utilized in anti-poaching patrols and to encourage the wild elephant population to stay within the safety of the park boundaries.

Dr. Sarma explaining medical points to the students.

Dr. Sarma explaining medical points to the students.

This was a routine health care clinic and all the elephants were vaccinated against tetanus and hemorrhagic septicemia (an acute bacterial infection).  In addition, some routine stool examinations were conducted and the elephants were given de-worming medication.  All of the females and any bulls that appeared weak were given multi-vitamin and multi-mineral mixtures plus vitamin injections.

Mahouts with their new uniforms

Mahouts with their new uniforms

In addition to helping elephants, AES believes it is important to help the people who care for the elephants.  Most of the people at this clinic are poor and have very few resources to care for the elephants.  Dr. Sarma was able to distribute 40 uniform shirts and an additional 5 khukries (traditional knives).  The knives are used to trim the elephants’ feet and to cut fodder for the elephants, making them a valuable tool in improving the health of the elephants. The uniforms give the mahouts a sense of pride and ownership in the role they play conserving elephants in Assam.
 
A special surprise occurred during the clinic when a beautiful wild bull visited the camp out of curiosity!  Upon inquiring, we were happily advised that he has many girlfriends in the elephant camps in this area and most of the calves born to captive mothers are sired by him.  However, we don’t believe he stayed around for foot care or vaccinations!

The visiting wild bull

The visiting wild bull

Dr. Sarma also advised he organized an Elephant Day at his college on October 2nd and has this report:

“As a part of the countrywide celebration of “Wild Life Week” in the first week of October, the 2nd October, 2013 was celebrated as “Elephant Day”  with the initiative of the Department of Surgery & Radiology, College of Veterinary Science, Khanapara with various day long programmes. The celebration started with life demonstration of elephant healthcare procedures to the fourth and fifth year BVSc & A.H. as well as some post graduate students by the experts of the department which was followed by an exhibition of rare books on elephants. In the next half of the programme, power point presentations were made on various topics involving the elephants  by Dr(Ms) Munmun Sarma, Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy & Histology, Dr. G. Mahato, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Dr. Bijoy Dutta, Associate Professor, Surgery & Radiology and Dr. Kushal Konwar Sarma, Professor & Head of the Department of Surgery & Radiology who is an internationally renowned  expert on elephants. Dr. R. N. Goswami, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science and Dr. A. Chakroborty, Director of Research (Vety) also addressed the students on the occasion.”

Our supporters of the “Hoof knives for Mahouts-India” program will be pleased to know that the knives are being distributed carefully and are greatly appreciated.  Please watch for future updates from
Dr. Sarma and feel free to cheer for the beautiful wild bull!

April 2013

Dr. Sarma advised he has conducted seven elephant health clinic sessions January through April for mahouts on elephant foot care. The clinic included sessions on using the khukri. which is the traditional knife that a mahout uses to care for his elephant's feet and to cut fodder for the elephant. So far, Dr. Sarama has distributed 52 of these knives and trained more than 52 mahouts, some already owning proper knives.

In addition, Dr. Sarma advised he has conducted a follow-up program for the temple elephants of Ahmedabad (initial vet workshop held in 2011) using AES financial support, and he has also attended to a circus elephant with a fracture in Anand, Gujarat.

December 2012, Goalpara

Dr. Sarma treated a young bull in Goalpara who was badly injured in a fight with other bulls. This was just one of many notifications we received during the year advising us of medical treatment of wild elephants.

March 2012, Kaziranga

At the Regional Asian Elephant Veterinary Workshop in March, Dr. Sarma advised that he had made an observational visit to Ahmedabad. While the health of the elephants appeared a bit better, another health clinic was warranted and was planned as soon as possible.  Dr. Sarma also discussed a second group of elephants he thought could use some assistance. This is a group of elephants he encountered while working on a rhino relocation project in Kaziranga. Dr. Sarma has already organized a veterinary visit at Kaziranga and will be returning to operate on an elephant with an abscess on its back.

Dr. Sarma (wearing a cap) and some of the workshop participants

Dr. Sarma (wearing a cap) and some of the workshop participants

AES will be kept updated on the work done at these clinics, as well as further opportunities for us to help these and other elephant populations. Many elephants reside in areas where their numbers are small and capable veterinarian assistance is not available. In addition, many of the mahouts caring for elephants in these locations lead a very difficult life. We are looking into ways we can also help the people that care for the elephants.

In addition to being a working veterinarian, Dr. Sarma is also a university professor. We feel privileged to have found a man of this talent and dedication to the welfare of Asian elephants. We appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Sarma and we are grateful he is willing to put these extra clinics into his already very busy schedule.

Veterinary Workshop in Ahmedabad, India (2011)

In early 2011, we received an inquiry from a veterinarian from the state of Gujarat in Western India, who was faced with treating an extremely ill elephant. Gujarat is a semi-arid state and is not ideal habitat for elephants; however, there are approximately 30 temple elephants living in this area. Unfortunately, due to a lack of exposure and experience, the veterinarians in Gujarat do not have a lot of practical or theoretical knowledge of elephant healthcare and management.

Sadly, it was too late to save this gravely ill elephant, but during the process, we made inquiries among our advisers that resulted in our introduction to Dr. Kushal Konwar Sarma. Dr. Sarma is a professor at Assam Agricultural University in the College of Veterinary Science. His position within the Department of Surgery & Radiology provides opportunities to teach, to participate in research and field work, and to publish his work. Every year, he works with hundreds of captive elephants along with a significant number of wild elephants. Even with his busy schedule, he found time to help us when we contacted him.

Some of the workshop participants

Some of the workshop participants

From our conversations with Dr. Sarma, it was decided that a workshop on the basic skills applicable to elephant healthcare would be helpful for both the elephants and the veterinarians who are involved in providing healthcare to the elephants. On December 25, Dr. Sarma led a one-day workshop on elephant healthcare and managerial practices in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India. The workshop was held at the Jagannath Temple and was attended by 21 participants from 9 different cities. The lectures in the morning covered important topics such as the biology of elephants, techniques of drug administration, anesthesia protocols, commonly occurring diseases and their management, foot care, and musth management. After lunch, there were hands-on demonstrations of healthcare techniques including routine examinations, sites for injections, estimations of height and weight, and routine foot care. The day concluded with an open discussion where many questions were answered. The participants were very thankful for the opportunity and we are grateful that we could contribute to making the lives of these elephants a little better and the work of the veterinarians a little easier.

We thank Dr. Sarma for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his knowledge and we look forward to working with him in the future. We would also like to thank the veterinary medical firm, Intas Pharmaceuticals Ltd., for their help in making this workshop a reality.