Field Course in Emerging Diseases of Asian Elephants, Kerala, India (November, 2012)

Asian Elephant Support (AES) continues to facilitate the training of veterinarians in Asia who work with elephants, with funding support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Asian Elephant Conservation Fund. As a follow-up to the Regional Asian Elephant Veterinary Workshop held in Banda Aceh, Sumatra-Indonesia in March 2012, a group of several veterinarians met in southern India in early November for a week long "Field Course in Emerging Diseases of Asian Elephants". This field course was held in the state of Kerala, and hosted by the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Pookode. Veterinarians from Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, and from around India participated in the course which addressed veterinary topics such as diagnosis and treatment of diseases in wild and captive elephant populations, and proper sample collection. The lead instructor was Dr. Arun Zachariah, a veterinarian with the Kerala Department of Forests and Wildlife, whose project "Emerging Diseases in the Single Largest Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) Population, Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, South India" was also supported in part by AES.

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During the course, veterinarians presented information about emerging diseases of elephants in their regions, shared experiences, and learned laboratory techniques to assess samples for certain specific diseases such as the Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus (EEHV), a highly fatal disease which has been confirmed in populations of captive and wild elephants around Asia.

Taking advantage of the time in this region, the veterinarians were also treated to some local field trips: to the Bandipur elephant camp where the efficient southern India Forest Department elephant camp management system was observed and discussed, and to the Wyanad Wildlife Sanctuary where the group was lucky to view wild elephants.

The experience exchange continues, as the veterinarians discussed the need for comprehensive reporting throughout the region, and agreed to develop guidelines to help field veterinarians collect appropriate samples for laboratory examinations. Such guidelines would help determine if certain elephant diseases are indeed emerging in populations around Asia.

We thank you for the financial support that allows us to help make these educational opportunities happen.