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Projects with Education, Travel, and Research Sponsorships

Professor Raman Sukumar - The Asian Elephant’s Conservation Conundrum

Vanessa Gagne

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Presented by the Saint Louis Zoo in Partnership with the Academy of Science-St. Louis

We are very encouraged by the progress of these baby elephants and we are hopeful for their future.  Unfortunately, due to an increase in human-elephant conflict, there will be more babies that need our help.  The ability to act quickly in these situations is critical, so please consider making a donation to AES or signing up for our monthly giving program, so we can move quickly to help protect the future of Sumatra’s elephant population.

Dr. Raman Sukumar is a Professor of Ecology and Chair of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India. Dr. Sukumar is an internationally acclaimed Asian elephant researcher and conservationist, founder of the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF)  (http://www.asiannature.org/ ), and a recipient of the International Cosmos Prize.

Dr. Sukumar has authored multiple books on the ecology and history of the Asian elephant, including:

  • The Story of Asia’s Elephants (2011) presents the ecological and cultural history of the Asian elephant, from ancient to contemporary times. The story of elephant and man is traced along successive periods in Asian history, and under major religious establishments. The final chapter presents a summary of the latest scientific knowledge of the elephant’s ecology and behaviour, and how we can plan for the conservation of the species.
  • The Living Elephants (2003) is an authoritative resource on both Asian and African elephants.  In this framework of evolutionary biology, Sukumar presents the behaviour, ecology, conservation,  and human interactions with elephants. This book should be of interest not only to biologists, but also to  field ecologists, wildlife administrators, historians, conservationists and all those interested in elephants and their future.
  • Elephant Days and Nights (1994) is an account of Dr. Sukumar’s  experiences during ten years of research on the Indian elephant.
  • The Asian Elephant (1993) provides an ecological analysis of elephant human interaction and its implications for the conservation of elephants.

Read more about these books at http://www.asiannature.org/resources/books/33  .

Dr. Sukumar has collaborated with scientists from all over the world and has published many peer-reviewed research papers on a wide array of topics. You can download and read some of these publications on the ANCF website at: http://www.asiannature.org/resources/rp/14.

A sampling of his research contributions include:

  • Populations, movement and habitat utilization of free-ranging elephants
  • Population, reproduction and management of captive Asian elephants
  • Demography of captive elephants in India
  • Crop-raiding patterns
  • Methods for census of wild elephants
  • Parasite abundance and diversity in elephants
  • Diagnosis of TB in captive elephants in India
  • Vocalizations of wild Asian elephants and social context
  • Pheromone in wild Asian elephants

Everyone was very excited to have this world-renowned elephant conservationist share his expertise during his visit to the United States in 2013. When our international advisor, Heidi Riddle, approached AES president, Linda Reifschneider, regarding the possibility of Prof. Sukumar participating in the St. Louis’ Zoo lecture series, everyone quickly agreed.    

July 26th through the 29th was a fun and educational weekend.  Linda had an opportunity to talk with Prof. Sukumar about future collaborative opportunities with AES and there was even time to do a little site seeing to the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the Endangered Wolf Center, and Grant’s Farm. In the evenings, Prof. Sukumar and the elephant staffs from the St. Louis Zoo and Grant’s Farm had an opportunity to discuss elephant issues over dinner.

Dr. Sukumar with Bud at Grant's Farm

Dr. Sukumar with Bud at Grant's Farm

More than 125 individuals attended Prof. Sukumar’s presentation, “The Asian Elephant's Conservation Conundrums” on Sunday, July 28th.  He enlightened everyone on the history of the Asian elephant and the elephant’s long relationship with man from ancient times through today. Most importantly, he expressed his concerns, hopes, and suggestions for the future of Asian elephants. His closing comments on the need for the East and West to work together and to share training and conservation knowledge, resonates with the AES board of directors.  Now more than ever, collaboration is critical for the survival of Asian elephants.  

Dr. Sukumar during his presentation

Dr. Sukumar during his presentation

Thank you to the St. Louis Zoo and the Academy of Science-St. Louis for presenting this exceptional opportunity to the St. Louis community.