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Projects in India

Filtering by Tag: Asian Elephant 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.