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Projects in India

Filtering by Tag: mahouts

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.   

56687c5b-a80b-48f2-8766-4496caf79e45.png

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.

Elephants on the Line - Bhutan and India

Chris Reifschneider

Mamatha

Mamatha

Part of the AES mission statement is “to increase awareness and offer support for human-elephant coexistence to help protect the needs and future of the Asian elephants”.  Over the past couple of years, AES has supported Mamatha Sathyanarayana,  a high school Biology teacher from Mysore, India.   Along with her teaching responsibilities, she is also involved with wildlife conservation. She facilitates workshops about wildlife co-existence (elephants, in particular)  for the local village children.  In October 2014 we had the opportunity to support Mamatha to attend and facilitate educational workshops in Bhutan. The North East India and Bhutan border is home to a sizable population of Asian elephants.  Elephants on the Line (EoL) is an organization that is collaborating between Bhutan, India and US partners to address the major human-elephant conflict issues in this area.   In 2014 the focus of EoL is the Udalguri District of Assam, India, which has one of the highest HEC rates in all of Asia. The following is Mamatha’s account of the workshops:

Elephants on the Line Education Workshops

Bhutan and Assam, India, October 2014

Role playing exercise

Role playing exercise

Elephants on the Line (EoL) is a trans-boundary, community based project that has been initiated to help local communities in Northern Assam and Southern Bhutan deal with human elephant conflict by providing awareness activities and encouraging villagers to voluntarily participate in conservation activities. From October 3-5, a two-day education workshop was held at the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan. The workshop was organized by the EoL project and was attended by about 20 staff from the Bhutan Forest Department, as well as some volunteers from the Assam EoL project.

During the workshop there were presentations about the status of elephants in Bhutan and in Assam, elephant behavior, causes of Human-Elephant conflict (HEC), and addressing conflict through coexistence.  I led the workshop components that specifically addressed coexistence and used various activities to share information and engage participants.  The activities included having participants develop short dramas, participate in a role play situation, and learning how to use energizers to refocus participants’ attention and teach. While at the Park all participants also enjoyed an evening session about elephant husbandry and care with the camp elephants that are used to patrol the park.

Workshop participants

Workshop participants

From Oct 6-8, a second workshop was held in Orang National Park, Assam (India).  The area affected is Udalguri District; there have been many human casualties from HEC as well as some elephant casualties in this region. In this workshop all of the participants were local villagers who are directly affected by HEC.  The workshop started with presentations about the causes of HEC, as well as the use of maps and GPS units to identify elephant habitat.  We also presented a few activities related to coexistence and the participants were very engaged. 

AES would like to thank Mamatha for her hard work for Asian elephants in India.  We are proud to support local people that are so dedicated to saving this amazing species and finding ways for elephants and humans to co-exist. 

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!