For the last 33 years, the Elephant Managers Association (EMA) has held an annual conference. This is always a wonderful opportunity to share information, see old friends, and make new contacts in the elephant community. This year’s conference was no exception. It was hosted by the Santa Barbara Zoo in beautiful Santa Barbara, California. The hotel was located across the street from the beach and in between conference activities you could always find at least a couple of attendees at the beach. The kickoff for the conference was a Hawaiian luau themed icebreaker, which included hula dancers, at the reception hall on the beach.
There were some wonderful presentations on various topics including husbandry, veterinary care, training, and of course, our favorite topic, conservation. We were very pleased to see an increase in the number of papers on conservation this year including an update on the recent survey of wild elephants in Sri Lanka, finding Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus in wild elephant populations in Africa and Asia (watch for an article on this virus in next month’s newsletter!), and the palm oil crisis, to name a few.
Director April Yoder gave a presentation on the activities of Asian Elephant Support and launched the “Hoof knives for Mahouts - India” project, which is a collaborative effort between the EMA and AES. An AES supporter and good friend, Molly Flora, is a licensed massage therapist and offered to give a chair massage one evening for a donation to the hoof knife program. She raised $90 in a matter of hours to help provide tools for the mahouts in India. Director Sharon Glaeser also gave an excellent presentation on the social management of the male calf at the Oregon Zoo.
Three of the four directors were able to attend this conference so we had an informal meeting to discuss Asian Elephant Support activities. We held the meeting at a restaurant that is part of the Good Dining program so we were raising money for AES while talking about AES.The zoo staff provided the attendees with other opportunities to see Santa Barbara. This included an evening on the town, a wine tasting, and a day at the Santa Barbara Zoo, which was only a block from the hotel. The Santa Barbara Zoo staff did a wonderful job and it is always great to spend three days talking about nothing but elephants!
We look forward to next year’s conference hosted by the Dallas Zoo.