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Projects in India

Filtering by Tag: Elephant

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!

Of Elephants and Man

Chris Reifschneider

Documenting Indigenous Traditional Knowledge on the Asian Elephant in Captivity

For nearly 3500 years, Asian elephants have lived and worked with humans. Today, approximately 15,000 elephants are housed in zoos, circuses, temples, government camps, orphanages, and with private owners. Traditionally, select men in range countries developed the skills and understanding necessary to become the mahouts (care givers) of these highly esteemed animals. Today, however, the younger generation is drawn to urban areas and the careers they pursue will offer more financial rewards with less physical effort and risk. While many references and texts are available that address current elephant husbandry issues, the traditional knowledge that is transferred verbally from one generation to the next is disappearing.

Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, Indian Institute of Science, has completed their project report "Of Elephants and Man: Documenting Indigenous Traditional Knowledge on the Asian Elephant in Captivity" This report documents the relationship between the elephant and its keeper for prosperity. The in-depth knowledge these men have of the species in general, may provide valuable insight into the mitigation of human-elephant conflict issues.   

Asian Elephant Support is honored to have assisted with the funding for this project because of the preservation of knowledge it will provide and the potential conservation applications.  

This report will only be available for a limited time on the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation website here:

Veterinary Workshop in Ahmedabad, India

Vanessa Gagne

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 advisors 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.

Dr. Sarma presenting at the workshop

Dr. Sarma presenting at the workshop

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 biological features 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 and doubts alleviated.  The participants were very thankful for the opportunity and we are grateful that we could contribute to making the lives of these elephants, and the work of the veterinarians, a little easier.

Veterinary participants listening intently

Veterinary participants listening intently

We would like to 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.

Opportunities like this are only possible because of your generous donations. Please consider making a donation to Asian Elephant Support so that we may continue to support worthwhile projects like the veterinary workshop in Ahmedabad, India.  Thank you.

Mahout and elephant waiting their turn for the hands on demonstrations to begin

Mahout and elephant waiting their turn for the hands on demonstrations to begin