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Projects in India

Filtering by Tag: elephants

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.



 

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.

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!

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! 

 

Update from India

Vanessa Gagne

We first introduced Dr. Kushal Sarma in our February 2012 newsletter as the veterinarian who organized the one-day veterinary workshop in the city of Ahmedabad, India. At the Regional Asian Elephant Veterinary Workshop in March, our president and Dr. Sarma discussed a follow up visit to this location.  Recently 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 is definitely warranted and will be held as soon as possible.  At the workshop they 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 teaching at the workshop

Dr. Sarma teaching at the workshop

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.

Dr. Sarma demonstrating proper foot care

Dr. Sarma demonstrating proper foot care

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.

We will keep you updated as this work progresses and thank you, Dr. Sarma!