Our foundation President presented at the 2011 International Elephant & Rhino Conservation and Research Symposium, hosted by The Rotterdam Zoo and the International Elephant Foundation, 10 - 14 October 2011.
This was my first European International Elephant Foundation (IEF) Symposium and the first time I participated in a symposium that included both elephant and rhino conservation and research papers. The Symposium began the day after the Elephant Managers Association Conference (EMA) in Rochester, New York, so I missed the last day of the EMA activities and had to hit the ground running in Rotterdam.
There were approximately 115 participants from 16 countries and featured 4 days of papers, a total of 58 presentations in all. The papers were equally divided among elephant and rhino papers, except for the second day, which consisted of a half-day of papers and half-day workshop on the endotheliotropic elephant herpes virus (EEHV). Black rhinos are the endearing creatures that convinced me to do my first volunteer travel more than 15 years ago. I didn't believe the poaching situation could possibly be any more horrific than what is happening to elephants in Africa today. I was wrong. This year, African rhinos are being poached at the rate of one every 20 hours and the methods used to take the horns have become more barbaric with technologic advances. For more details on rhino conservation, I recommend visiting these websites:
Save the Rhino (www.savetherino.org)
International Rhino Foundation (www.rhinos-irf.org)
As always, I was impressed and honored to be among such a talented and dedicated group of wildlife champions. One of AES' colleagues in Asia, Dr. Arun Zachariah, gave a riveting presentation on the EEHV in elephants in Southern India. He has documented 15 cases of EEHV in young elephants representing both the captive and free ranging Asian elephant populations. This extremely important research project is a collaboration between researchers from the viral oncology program at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the National Elephant Herpes Virus Laboratory at the Smithsonian Zoo (both in the U.S.) and the Wildlife Disease Research Laboratory in Kerala, India. This is the first report of EEHV infections in free ranging elephants, which highlights the need to study EEHV diseases in the world's largest population of Asian elephants. While finding cases of EEHV would not be considered good news, the importance of knowing what is happening regarding potential diseases cannot be understated. There can be no hope of victory if we do not know the enemy! We are grateful for the work Dr. Arun and his colleagues are doing and we are thankful AES has been able to fund a portion of his work (see our Project page, Emerging Diseases and Conservation in India).
Asian Elephant Support also gave a presentation about our mission, goals, and ongoing collaborations to benefit Asian elephants. We received positive feedback from elephant scientists, veterinarians, field researchers, and elephant managers and, as a result, our supporters can be assured that their financial contributions are being put to work most efficiently and effectively. You are making a difference! I thank you and I hope you will continue your support for Asian Elephant Support. The coming year promises to be another difficult year for Asian elephants and they will need all the help we can give them.