This past June Turk and Vanessa headed up to St. Louis to meet Barb and Linda for the 2018 Annual AES Board Meeting. Vanessa and Turk spent that Friday, June 8th, at the Cahokia mounds in Illinois and the City Museum in downtown STL to celebrate Vanessa's birthday. Then we held AES meetings both Saturday and Sunday to plan out our next year's worth of activities and fundraisers. Saturday night we were lucky to have a nice dinner planned at a local pub where we all visited with keepers and docents from Grant's Farm and St. Louis Zoo. Vanessa and Turk visited the STL Zoo Sunday and enjoyed meeting up with their elephant keepers for a special training demonstration with Rajah on exhibit. That Monday, Turk and Vanessa headed home and stopped at Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, MO to see their elephant program and meet their keepers. We look forward to sharing all of these exciting new ideas in the coming months with you. Thank you for your continued support and helping us help elephants.
Thailand is the country where Linda first landed in her quest to see Asian elephants on their home turf. Over the years, many good relationships and programs have offered the opportunity for AES to collaborate and support efforts benefiting both Asian elephants and the people who care for and about them.
Chiang Mai, one of the northern Thailand tourist destinations, is a good base on visits. Long-time friend, Julia Ferdinand, domiciled here, is always good logistics support and the all important ‘wheels’. So, too, this trip.
Our first stop is a long drive for a brief, but very good visit, to catch up with John Roberts at The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) base at the Anantara Resort, near the Golden Triangle. Through GTAEF, John offers an excellent and flexible elephant experience opportunity for tourists, while also always alert for programs and efforts to help improve captive elephant care where needed, as well as responding to requests for funding for educational, rescue, and other worthwhile efforts. AES has collaborated with GTAEF on a few occasions and looks forward to doing more together in the future.
The following day we visit the University of Chiang Mai’s Veterinary School. Linda is fortunate to know a few of the staff from our conferences and workshops, and she knows the effort they are making toward advances in elephant health care but had never before visited. After a very good meeting with Drs. Chatchote Thitaram and Chaleamchat Somgird, Dr. Khajohnpat Boonpraseet (“Dr. Yeaw”) takes Linda to Patara Elephant Farm. Linda visited there 10+ years ago when Patara had 4 or 5 well-cared for elephants and great sounding plans. They almost sounded impossible! But, 2018, and Theerapat (“Pat”) Trungprekan has more than delivered on this promise.
Now 57 elephants strong, with three calves born last year and five expected births this year, Patara is helping to stabilize the Thai elephant population. At the same time, a great tourist opportunity is offered. Staff is kind and friendly and both know and respect the animals under their care. Linda saw a comment on a tourist industry website that said, “If your trip to Thailand includes one day in Chiang Mai, spend it here. If not, add a day and spend it here,” and thinks that is some pretty good advice!
The next day, Linda rode along as Dr. Yeaw visited several elephant camps to treat elephants; mostly he is drawing blood to examine the cycling of selected females. First stop is Maetaman Camp. Over the years, Linda has been here many times. At present, they have 60+ elephants, some owned by camp owner, some are owned by others and brought here to work. Dr. Yeaw does 11 blood draws, all to check the cycles of these breeding-age females. The work goes smoothly with all but one elephant waiting her turn quietly and all cooperating like real pros. The one exception squeaked when she felt the needle but otherwise was a good girl. Maybe she’s new to the program! All elephants seen were between their late teens and into their 40s.
Next, we visit Rimtan Elephant Camp, a small camp with just a few elephants and did one blood draw.
A bit farther we stopped at Elephant Carer Home: no draws, no elephants in sight. Just a visit to ‘check in’ and be sure all is good. Then a visit to Elephant Rescue Home where we see 5 elephants: 2 adults and 3 juveniles. Give a tetanus inoculation to one elephant and looked at an inflamed eye on another.
Last stop is Baanchang Elephant Park. Met the woman owner to treat a female elephant who is bossy and a fighter but picked the wrong gal for her last battle, and besides lots of skinned up places, has a horribly swollen front leg Dr. Yeaw is treating. They have 54 elephants there and the facilities are quite new, well laid out, decently designed, and look like good materials and construction. And, these elephants get preventative medicine and have veterinarians on the premise.
No visit to Chiang Mai would be complete without a day trip to Lampang to visit with Richard Lair. An American who has been working in Thailand for more decades than we care to admit at this point, he is a true authority on not only the Asian elephant in Thailand and other Asian countries, but also the Thai history, culture, and language. We are proud he is an AES adviser.
The last day in Chiang Mai concluded with Dr. Yeaw and Pat, owner of Patera, and Linda at dinner. It was an excellent meeting and Linda agreed to help the newly forming Thailand Elephant Alliance (the owners of working elephants) which is being set up to both improve camps where needed and to educate the public on good elephant husbandry as well as the history and culture of Thai elephants and their owners/mahouts. Not sure how she/AES can be of assistance, but we are eager to help where possible.
After six days based in Chiang Mai, a last visit to Ayutthaya and the Elephantstay program at the Royal Kraal. Linda always has a horrible time getting tuk-tuk drivers to get her to the right destination. Finally, Ewa and Michelle explain to her it’s her pronunciation – comes out not meaning anything to the driver (who evidently isn’t good at 20 Questions, but sure tries!). It was a short visit, but a good time watching the bulls delivering fodder to the ‘elderly ladies’ in the Elephantstay program and the antics of two young calves.
Personal note from Linda: I always return from any trip to Asia more convinced than ever that Asian Elephant Support has it right. Concentrating our funding in Asia is without a doubt the best investment we – and our donors – can make. Lots of challenges ahead to get these magnificent animals into the next century, but if we look at ‘challenges’ as opportunities for us to put our commitment and resources toward – and with the support and encouragement of you, our donors and friends – we are confident we can be an important contributor to this effort. Thank YOU – for helping us help elephants.
In July we will commence a campaign to provide The Center for Excellence in Elephant Research and Education a second vehicle. Stay tuned!
LAOS & THAILAND – Elephants & People…
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!