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Foundation News

30th Annual Elephant Manager's Association

Chris Rico

This past October, AES board members Linda and Vanessa attended the 30th annual Elephant Manager's Association (EMA) conference in Miami, FL. We enjoyed two days of papers about all things elephant, with president Linda presenting on the last day covering our project updates. Zoo day was spent at the luscious Miami Zoo and one would think it is half botanical garden with all the gorgeous blooms everywhere, even in mid-October. That evening at the awards ceremony Linda won a cash raffle and donated the proceeds right back to AES.

Every year we are thankful to meet new people, see old friends, and catch up with colleagues regarding range country news. Anabel from the ECC in Sayaboury attended and presented so we were able to chat with her about their progress and elephants in person. Many of our supporters are members of the elephant community here and were also in attendance.

On to Denver next year to see their bachelor Asian elephant herd in the Mile High city!

Little Rock Zoo's Elephant Appreciation Weekend

Chris Rico

Zina and Babe

Asian Elephant Support has been privileged to have Little Rock Zoo’s support for almost as long as we’ve been AES!

This year Linda and Carl again headed to Little Rock, Arkansas, to spend Elephant Appreciation Weekend with Zina, Sophie, Babe, and their caregivers: Kristin, Johnny, Justin, Ellie, and Lauralynn. Linda also has a special fondness for black rhinos Johari and his mate Andazi, so being able to spend some time with them is also a ‘must’!

However, this year, the weather decided to be totally wet. It is a real shame when elephant keepers do their full, busy job and then put so much of their own time into preparing for a special event – with the goal being to help Asian elephants in range countries – and get rained out. We did have a good half day on Saturday and Linda turned the rainout into a rainbow by visiting AES adviser, Heidi Riddle, who lives not too far from Little Rock.

Kristin mentioned a rain check event come spring, and Linda will definitely be there if it is able to happen. Our thanks for the effort and we always appreciate the opportunity to spend time with those who truly care about elephants….and their charges! 😊

Sophie and Babe

Topeka Zoo's Conservation Conversation

Chris Rico

Topeka Zoo's September Conservation Conversation featured Asian Elephant Support as presented by President Linda Reifschneider.

Asian Elephant Support is fortunate to have Topeka Zoo as a partner that is mutually concerned about Asian elephants regarding their care today and the future of the species tomorrow.  September 13th was the second time Linda has spoken at a Topeka Zoo Conservation Conversation evening.  She has visited the zoo several times in the past few years and considers keepers and staff good friends and, of course, always spends some time with the elephants.


The 12th, while preparing to drive to Topeka, Linda learned that Topeka Zoo had to say goodbye to Sunda that morning.  Sunda was 58, and had been experiencing age-related health issues.  That Monday when she woke, she wasn’t able to get up by herself and the fire department brought in a crane that was able to help her back on her feet.  Linda understood her health was failing but you always want to think, “I want to see her one more time” and never, “It will be too late…”.

All of us at AES offer our sincere condolences to the keepers, staff, volunteers/docents, and Topeka’s public.  Sunda came to Topeka when she was 6-years-old and lived her entire life there. Ten years after her arrival, African elephant Tembo arrived and those two lived together for 42 years.  Being able to view an Asian and African elephant together is such a wonderful educational opportunity: yes, both are elephants and so much the same, and yet so different.  Tembo, African, and Cora, Asian, will continue to offer their visitors this same educational opportunity, but there will be a void in the yard, and Tembo and Cora are having to work their way through Sunda’s passing just as her two-legged family is doing.

And so, in spite of such circumstances, Topeka Zoo and the Topeka Zoo community welcomed Linda warmly. We shared a moment focused on Sunda, and then had our conservation conversation: discussing the many challenges facing Asian elephants as they make their perilous trek to the next century, as well as the ways AES both alone and in collaboration with other nonprofits are hoping to smooth out some of the bumps, and thus enable the Big Ones to make that journey successfully.

Linda with Dennis and Wrylie

Linda with Dennis and Wrylie

Thank you Dennis, Wrylie, docents and volunteers for making Linda’s visit a good one, even though all our hearts were very heavy.  And to Kim, Elise, Joe, Robyn – thank you for all you do for all Topeka’s elephants.  May the joy of your memories of Sunda ease the sorrow of her passing; know that your dedication to all elephants will only grow because of knowing her.

A couple of Topeka Zoo volunteers

A couple of Topeka Zoo volunteers

Woodland Park Asian Animal Festival

Vanessa Gagne

Once again this past August, Linda headed to Oregon and Washington – to visit some great two and four-legged friends and celebrate World Elephant Day. First stop is Portland, Oregon, where Ann Littlewood, once a zookeeper and now an author (Linda’s favorite: Did Not Survive) invited us to stay with her and hubby, as well as visiting aunt and niece. A lovely home with some very good conversations definitely added a special joy to this visit. At the Oregon Zoo, Shawn Finnell brought Linda up to date on their elephants as we watched them. And it was good to see Samson settling in so well at his ‘new digs’. Saw him three years ago when he was contributing to the Albuquerque Zoo’s breeding program. Now he’s moved north to work his magic!

The Littlewoods

The Littlewoods

Point Defiance, Washington, is always a favorite stop. John Houck, deputy director, is preparing to don the new cap of ‘retirement’ (that definitely doesn’t mean ‘does nothing!’ – not with individuals of John’s ilk). On Linda’s visit he gave her a tour of their to-open-in-September new aquarium. It will be a truly wonderful experience for all who visit Point Defiance Zoo. Linda, of course, always stops to say hello to Hanako and Suki, as well as Shannon Smith and the rest of the elephant barn staff. Andy, Margaret, and Russell joined us for lunch. Like so many busy elephant keepers, these folks also make time for our visits and always make visits so very warm and welcomed. And best to you, John, as you find out how darn busy it is possible to be when one retires! Shannon and John Woodland Park Zoo’s invitation to participate in their Wild Asia Festival is the impetus for this trip. WPZ has been supporting Dr. Christopher Stremme’s work in Sumatra for several years and we are always delighted to visit and share an update of Dr. Stremme and AES’ work on behalf of Asian elephants. It is also especially nice to accept this invitation as WPZ has helped us, not only by funding Dr. Stremme, but also by hosting a CPK event for us. Bobbi Miller, Field Conservation Coordinator, has become a special friend over the passing years as we shoulder on for Asian elephants. On Friday, Linda gave an update at a lunchtime talk and Saturday she had a table during the Wild Asia Festival to talk about AES’ efforts in Asian range countries. The Pacific Northwest is awesome… but it’s not just the scenery. For AES, it is the many warm, wonderful, capable, and dedicated staff at these three zoos. We are fortunate to have such people on the side of the Asian elephant, helping this magnificent species make its difficult trek to the next century. Thank you friends!

Shannon and John

Shannon and John