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Foundation News

Laos Trip 2018

Chris Rico

LAOS & THAILAND – Elephants & People…

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Asian Elephant Support has funded the Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) over the past several years with funds for supplies and equipment along with encouraging staff development by sending Kan to a mahout workshop in Sumatra.  Presently, AES is funding Dr. Christopher Stremme’s travel to visit the ECC three times this year.  He is assisting with the medical program for their elephants and helping Kan hone his vet tech skills.

Dr. Stremme also presented a PowerPoint program on elephant foot care for the mahouts, 26 men who care for the elephants daily.  His presentation was translated for the mahouts by Kan and included videos showing the mahouts in Sumatra training their elephants for foot care.

 Kan translating the presentation for the mahouts

Kan translating the presentation for the mahouts

President Linda Reifschneider spent three days at the ECC during Dr. Stremme’s visit and thanks Anabel Lopez Perez, ECC Biologist, for helping with Linda’s visit, and the entire staff for the talent and dedication they bring to this elephant program

 Anabel, Kan, Christopher, Mahout from Sumatra CRU

Anabel, Kan, Christopher, Mahout from Sumatra CRU

Hands Across Borders

Chris Rico

REGIONAL TIGER, ASIAN RHINO & ELEPHANT VETERINARY WORKSHOP

Sharing Knowledge, Experience, Friendship, & Caring

In 2002, when President Linda Reifschneider decided she needed to see Asian elephants on their home turf, she looked at the map and decided on Nepal. However, traveling by herself, to a country so far from home for the first time – and not wanting a ‘tourist package’ but to really see and be with elephants - she couldn’t figure out how. An opportunity in Thailand to help take care of two orphan baby elephants, bathe them in the river, and be taught how to ride like a mahout (on elephant’s neck) sent her in that direction.

Sixteen years later: Nepal! The workshop attendees met in Kathmandu and the workshop was held in Chitwan National Park, a long, bumpy six-hour ride, but bordering the Trisuli River a good part of the way with the road hugging the steep foothills of the Himalayas, climbing up the hillside and then descending to the park borders.

Paper sessions filled two full days and among the 25 veterinarians participating in the workshop were several we have had the pleasure to work with: Dr. Christopher Stremme, Sumatra, who presented on collaring and the responsibilities that don’t end once the collar is in place but last as long as the elephant is wearing it; Dr. Zaw Min Oo, discussed the options for elephants and keepers in Myanmar who now find themselves unemployed as logging with elephants is being phased out; Dr. Kushal Sarma gave us an update on EEHV in northern India; Dr. Pham Van Thinh from Laos; Dr. Arun Zachariah from India; Dr. Khajohnpat Boonprasert (Dr. Yeaw) from Thailand; and Dr. Bhaskar Choudhary, with the Wildlife Trust of India. Also in attendance were veterinarians from the United States, Russia China, Mongolia and, of course, Nepal.

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Linda sincerely believes the ability to meet each other in person and be able to network with them is one of the best take-away benefits of these workshops. To have a name and phone number of someone who may be able to offer suggestions to a problem you have not previously addressed is a great way to grow the knowledge so necessary for the future of all wildlife.

One attendee, working with the private owners in the Chitwan area, had an elephant with a ‘toothache’ brought to the conference grounds and visiting vets were able to examine her and offer the elephant’s vet and owner some various ways of addressing her problem.

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Our workshop ended with a canoe ride to visit the elephant breeding facility and a game drive in Chitwan National Park. We didn’t see any wild elephants, but a sloth bear danced across the road twice for our photographic enjoyment.

 AES advisor Heidi Riddle (left) and president Linda Reifschneider

AES advisor Heidi Riddle (left) and president Linda Reifschneider

Asian Elephant Support helped facilitate this workshop funded by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and, as always, we extend our appreciation to our supporters who make it possible for us to help elephants in Asian range countries. Thank you!

Sri Lanka 2018

Chris Rico

 The elephants at Pinnewala coming in for the evening

The elephants at Pinnewala coming in for the evening

President Linda Reifschneider headed to Sri Lanka on December 11, 2017, to visit some of the people and projects we have been funding in that lovely island nation.

Jayantha Jaywardene and his associate, Sudath, joined Linda for dinner in Colombo the evening of the 13th.  Jayantha is the driving force behind the Schools Awareness Program which has been teaching school age children in Sri Lanka about elephant conservation and human-elephant conflict solutions.  Asian Elephant Support has been delighted to help Jayantha keep this program running for class after class of school aged children.

Then Linda headed to the Udawalawe National Park area.  First stop was to visit Dr. Vijitha Perera, head veterinarian at The Elephant Transit Home (ETH).  The ETH is an orphanage for young calves who are still dependent on their mothers’ milk.  They receive 7 feedings every 24-hour period.  Their days are spent in open forested areas and secure stalls at night.  Linda had the opportunity to see a feeding at the quiet time of 10 p.m.  The following day she returned to view the first public morning feeding and then headed into Udawalawe National Park to see lots of elephants, including many who were growing up there after being weaned and old enough to leave the orphanage.

AES has been delighted to help Dr. Perera with funds to attend a vet workshop and look forward to working with him in the future.

 Linda, Dr. Perera, and staff share lunch

Linda, Dr. Perera, and staff share lunch

Visiting Sri Lanka would not be complete without a stop at Yala National Park and especially a moment at the 2004 Tsunami memorial.  Linda was there a few years after the tsunami and this beautiful stretch of beach makes remembering the horrific loss of life during that event even more dramatic.

An overnight stay at The Grand Hotel in Nuwara Eliya is always a very special treat and right on the way to Kandy.  A visit to the Veterinary School at the University of Peradeniya provided a good opportunity to get updated on Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society’s EleVet program, which is another effort AES has helped fund.  And then, a special moment: the opportunity to visit the Kandy Temple elephants.  Usually one only gets to see these elephants when they are on parade during a festival.  So, to see their ‘digs’ and meet the mahouts who care for them daily was quite a privilege!  Thanks to Dr.  Ashoka Dangolla, professor at the University of Peradeniya, for facilitating this opportunity.

Of course, one does not go to Kandy without visiting Pinnewala, the largest and first elephant sanctuary in Sri Lanka.  Linda was given a very good tour and visited with their elephants and staff.  From there she joined Dr. Dangolla at The Millennium Elephant Sanctuary, down the road from Pinnewala, to visit with the volunteers helping care for those elephants.

 Linda with a bull in Kandy

Linda with a bull in Kandy

Finally, on to Wasgamuwa: Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Sanctuary’s (SLWCS)
headquarters and where Linda spent two weeks on her first visit to the island volunteering in Ravi Corea’s Earthwatch project.  Ravi is the founder and president of SLWCS and offers excellent volunteer opportunities for those wanting to learn more about Asian elephant conservation, and all the challenges facing these magnificent creatures, on a firsthand basis.

Back to Colombo for Christmas Day, the anticipated manicure, pedicure, and massage didn’t happen: that staff was off for the Christmas festival!

While AES is a totally voluntary nonprofit and we cover all our own travel expenses, YOU, our supporters, are the ones who make it possible for us to fund these various beneficial projects and needs.  Thank you for helping us help elephants!

 An elephant on the side of the road at Udawalawe National Park

An elephant on the side of the road at Udawalawe National Park

2017 ZAA Conference

Chris Rico

This past November, secretary Vanessa Gagne attended the Zoological Association of America’s annual conference hosted by the San Antonio Zoo.

Vanessa presented a poster during one of the coffee breaks
on human-elephant conflict and the palm oil crisis which gave
her the opportunity to talk with attendees about the realities Asian elephants face in their shrinking habitat.  

The presenters came from a wide variety of backgrounds, including animal trainers, conservationists, and zoo directors.  Attendees were treated to a grand tour of the San Antonio Zoo where we met their baby hippo, fed giraffes, and saw their impressive Mexican reptile collection.  

Vanessa and her husband Michael were glad to be able to visit with fellow EMA member and SAZ mammal curator, Jonathan Reding.  We hope to attend more ZAA conferences in the future and become a part of their conservation message.