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Projects in India

EleBus Update

Chris Rico

Following is an update on the EleBus of Sri Lanka, a project that is making a real difference and one you - through AES - have helped to support:

"One hundred and twenty school children travel daily in the EleBus." The SLWCS


The EleBus will continue to provide the children of Wasgamuwa with safe transport to school and home Thanks to the generous support of our friends, volunteers and corporate sponsors.

The impact the EleBus has had in creating peace and coexistence in the Tree Hut Elephant Corridor can be measured by the large number of elephants that use the corridor today…not only to travel through but also to feed and socialize.

The EleBus recently underwent the following repairs, servicing and maintenance to ensure it would continue to provide a safe conveyance to the children of Wasgamuwa.

  • Six new tires, tubes and rim guards

  • Replaced the suspension tie rod set

  • All the spring leaves were reshaped

  • Replaced the Joint Knuckle Kin Pins

  • Replaced all three Universal Joints

  • The radiator was completely flushed, cleaned and filled with new coolant

  • Full servicing and oils changed

  • The Brake Drums refaced

  • Broken side window replaced

  • The license, comprehensive insurance, and permit to carry passengers renewed

  • Passed the emission test

  • Paid the annual Carbon Tax

Recently a reporter Nicole Graaf and a cameraman Emre Çayla from the German National Public Radio interviewed several children who travel daily in the EleBus. Following are several questions that were asked and the children’s responses.

1) How would you get to school if the bus wasn’t running?

Answer – We have to adapt the older system again till Ele-Friendly bus back to operation. In this way we use foot bicycles, land master tractors and Tuk Tuks to come to the school and back. All our parents and older people of the village guarding us at the elephant corridor with all these transport systems.

2) How often do you ride the bus?

Answer – Every day when we go to the school and come back to home, EleBus is waiting till we come every morning and afternoon.

3) Do you feel safer from elephants when riding the bus?

Answer – Yes of course it is safer than any other method what we use before and we enjoy EleBus ride to the school every day.

4) Do you think you would miss a lot more school if the bus wasn’t running?

Answer - Yes of course, this will happen to us now very often since the bus is not running, sometimes I feel very lethargic to go to school when bus is not come, sometimes our parents are busy in paddy fields so they can’t come with us to go to school, then we are so scared to go to school when no one is coming to guard us at elephant corridor.

Some of the 120 students who ride the EleBus daily

Some of the 120 students who ride the EleBus daily

The SLWCS and the children and elephants of Wasgamuwa are sincerely grateful to everyone who contributed to keep the EleBus operating. We would like to say a warm and sincere thank you to our a long time Sri Lankan corporate sponsors Colombo Jewellery Stores and WealthTrust Securities Limited and to all those friends,volunteers and supporters who donated through our online PayPal account and GoFundMe campaign to help in the maintenance, repairs and operations of the EleBus.

We still face challenges to operate the EleBus. We still need funds to cover the daily cost of fuel and staff to operate the EleBus. Please share our GoFundMe campaign ( with your family, friends and colleagues.

All ready to create peace and coexistence

Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!

Photo Credits:
Ravi Corea/SLWCS
Indika Sampath/SLWCS

Automated Elephant Tracking to Reduce Human-Elephant Conflict

Chris Rico

Automated Sensor-Based Elephant Tracking Device for Reducing Human-Elephant Conflict

Koustav Choudury Interim Report

This report describes a sensor and call alert system designed for detecting elephant intrusions into villages that border wildlife reserves and alerting threatened communities of the location of the elephants. The sensor system for detection is wireless and is connected with a Hooter and Elephant Alert Call Amplifier for alerting communities. In order to balance power consumption, cost, and ease of installation and testing in rural areas, novel strategies for hardware, firmware, and communication have been applied to the rareness of events to be detected and low data rates and light traffic load involved.

The system needs to be maintained by the communities, so attempts have been made to build in preventative maintenance measures and to build the system such that it is maintainable by personnel without technical expertise.

We have received permission from West Bengal Forest Department, India. Now we are ready to install 40 devices in 11 locations of Garumara South Range under Gorumara Wildlife Division. We have conducted 3 awareness workshops with forest villagers of that region regarding the device. We have already built the 40 devices, which was accomplished by myself, Koustav Choudhury, Shimu Saha and Pradyut Roy and all of our team. Hooter will be placed in 4 Forest Beat Offices: Ramsai-Kalipur Beat, Gorumara Beat, and Bichabhanga Beat. We have made iron poles and iron boxes to install those sensors and we have already 20 poles installed in the Ramsai-Kalipur, Bichabhanga, Gorumara, and Dhupjhora locations.

We have installed 10 devices, and they are working very well. With these 10 devices we have tracked elephants at least 5-6 times and have sent alerts to forest officials, and in these areas crop raiding is starting to decrease.

Jalpaiguri Train Workshop

Chris Rico

Last autumn AES helped fund a technical workshop to help reduce train-elephant accidents. It was held November 16-17, 2018, in Jalpaiguri in the state of West Bengal, India. The workshop brought together government officials from the Forest and Railways Departments, as well as individuals with expertise in technology and wildlife conservation.

During the workshop there were interesting presentations about new technology that may serve to develop early warning systems to notify train engine drivers about the presence of elephants near the tracks. There were also presentations about elephant movement (based on radio collar studies) in West Bengal, and updates from the Forest Department and Railways Department officials about efforts they have taken to reduce collisions between trains and elephants.

After the presentations and discussions there was a field site visit to an area of railway tracks that has seen several accidents.

The outcome of the workshop will be a document identifying priorities and needs, including how NGOs can help, that will be presented to a higher level of government - both Forest Dept and Railways Dept


Dudhwa Camp Healthcare and Mahout Training

Chris Rico

A year ago we received a grant request to help cover the food and healthcare costs of 13 elephants at the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve camp in Uttar Pradesh, India. Over the course of a year the camp has grown to 23 elephants with the addition of a mahout training workshop! Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), the Forestry Department, and Dr. Kushal Sarma have all been working tirelessly to improve the welfare of their elephants. The team used several medical tests and training tests to assess overall welfare of the charges. They also evaluated the comprehension of the mahouts in order to better educate them about training, husbandry, and foot care.

It has been found that closer regulation of these elephants is required to keep the standards of welfare and medical attention high. The report specifically states that the mahouts are dedicated to the keeping of their elephants and are eager to learn as much as possible to keep them healthy and content. We, along with WTI, share the idea that improving the lives and education of mahouts directly benefits their elephants. When a mahout can see a tangible change in the life of their elephant, they earn a sense of pride and a renewal of self-motivation to continue working for that animal and that in turn builds trust between the elephant and the mahout and everything begins to improve from there. We were happy to learn the mahout workshop was added to their plans for these elephants living in human care.

Please read the full welfare[1] and mahout training[2] reports.

[1]: Final_Report_for_Elephant_health_camp_Dudhwa_2019.pdf
[2]: Final_Report_for_Mahout_Training.pdf

Mahout Briefing Workshop

Chris Rico

Karnataka, India
September 2 - 4th 2018


As a joint effort by mahouts, elephant camps, the forest department, and individual elephant professionals, this workshop was held to strengthen the knowledge base of mahouts for the benefit of their charges.  AES is proud to support the preservation of the mahout/elephant bond. We believe that by helping to improve the lives of the mahouts it will in turn foster a better environment for elephant welfare to flourish.

Dr. Mamatha Sathyanarayana has been developing and presenting educational programs for mahouts for a few years now. She brings mahouts from several camps in Karnataka together to discuss their challenges and find solutions while opening communication to conserve traditional elephant knowledge.  It is awesome to see so many people coming together to work toward a future for Asian elephants in human care.

Thank you to all of our donors who are helping the caretakers of elephants all the way across the world live a better life with their charges. 

Click here to read Dr. Mamatha's full report.

Dr. Kushal - Update from India

Chris Rico

Dr. Kushal visited Kaziranga National Park in late October.  He operated upon the foot of a private female elephant to remove a foreign body from her foot, and also operated upon another female with a fistular wound on her foot.  He attended to five elephants altogether.  One can see the importance for routine foot care in the management of elephants in human care.

Expanding the Conservation Network of Asian Mahouts

Chris Rico

Spotlight on our very own Mamatha, Nazar, and Heidi Riddle:  AES has long provided opportunities for mahouts to gain more hands on knowledge about elephant husbandry.  We have supported FOKMAS in Sumatra for many years and we were able to fund travel for two Indian mahouts from forest camps in Karnataka, India, to the FOKMAS workshop to share information.  The forest camps in Karnataka also use elephants in human care to mitigate human-elephant conflict; exactly like their Sumatran counterparts in the CRUs and ERUs.  The following article explains how the two country’s mahouts were able to find common ground and lift one another up with education.

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


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

P9220612 (2).JPG

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.


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:

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.   


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.