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Projects in India

Filtering by Tag: mahout

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.  

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.

 

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! 

 

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: