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Projects in India

Filtering by Tag: USFWS

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.

 

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!

Emerging Diseases and Conservation in India Research Report

Vanessa Gagne

In September 2010, we announced that we had been awarded a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Asian Elephant Conservation Fund to support a research project in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in South India.  The goals of this project were to identify emerging diseases, their prevalence in the largest global population of Asian elephants, and to determine the impact of these diseases for long-term conservation.  Please see http://asianelephantsupport.org/emerging-diseases-and-conservation-in-india.asp for more information about this research.

Fast forward to November 2012…

Two years of intense field and laboratory work have brought to the forefront new observations about diseases in wild Asian elephant populations. Several diseases were identified during the course of this study.

One of the diseases identified is the Endotheliotropic Elephant Herpes Virus (EEHV).  This study provides the first report of EEHV in free ranging Asian elephants.   Although only a few cases were confirmed, the findings of EEHV in free ranging elephants, and the scientific data generated, can help to identify the cause of EEHV emergence in captive populations.  This research may also shed light on the evolution of the virus, which has a high mortality rate in elephants.

Like all good research, we have a better understanding of certain issues, but have been left with a long list of questions.  In this case, there are serious questions that can and need to be addressed.  Even these initial findings will impact our efforts to conserve Asian elephants.

More research is needed on how the free ranging elephant population has been affected by emerging diseases such as EEHV.  As this free ranging population shares habitat with captive elephants, livestock, and human settlements, there is an important need for long-term wildlife health monitoring of the elephant populations. There is also a need to determine the extent that environmental factors, such as sharing space with livestock, contribute to the emergence of disease of Asian elephants.

Knowledge and good science represent the real hope for the future of this magnificent species.  Obviously, there is much more work to be done.  To this end, AES is continuing to partner with scientists, veterinarians, and other organizations concerned about Asian elephant health.  AES will focus support on continuing the study of EEHV in Asian elephant populations around the world.

Wild elephant populations are experiencing loses due to EEHV.  This picture of a mom guarding her dying calf   sends a powerful message.  This is not just another statistic: it’s another lost life  .    

Wild elephant populations are experiencing loses due to EEHV.  This picture of a mom guarding her dying calf sends a powerful message.  This is not just another statistic: it’s another lost life.