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Projects in Nepal

Hands Across Borders

Chris Rico


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.

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!

Nepal HEC Workshop

Vanessa Gagne


Workshop in Bardiya National Park, Nepal, addressing the very real life/death decisions local people make on a daily basis when they share living space with elephants.


In 2009, Zoo Outreach Organization conducted a series of Human Elephant Coexistence and conservation education programs training about 120 educators in various elephant range areas of Nepal.  The evaluation of this program found it to be very effective and it was decided similar training was necessary in other parts of Bardiya National Park.  A three-day workshop was organized for November 3 to 6, 2016, with Asian Elephant Support providing the financial means.

Participants included village heads, village council members, teachers, Nepal Armed Forces that deal with inter-border wildlife issues, members from NGOs, volunteers, and forest personnel.  AES advisor Heidi Riddle, Riddles Wildlife & Elephant Sanctuary; Naresh Subedi from the National Trust for Nature Conservation; and B. A. Daniel of Zoo Outreach were the main resource persons.

During the workshop a variety of educational materials developed exclusively for Nepal were used including Getting Along With Elephants, a brochure that includes species information, has activities related to Asian culture and the Asian elephant, human-elephant conflict (HEC) case studies and morals, history of HEC in Nepal and other Asian elephant range countries, various mitigation measures, and some important guidelines for people to mitigate HEC in their daily lives.  The materials were thoughtfully designed and created for a carefully selected class of individuals in positions to teach what they have learned to others.

This workshop included 32 participants plus the three instructors.  The survey participants completed at the end of the three-day workshop is geared to measure their knowledge gained of the presented elephant information.  The highest range difference of ‘before’ and ‘after’ the workshop was 9% to 90%.  The group average score was 38.98% before and 82.35% after.  Each participant received a pledge card to commit to practice teaching what they learned in the next three to four months, while the coordinating institutions committed to follow up with the participant educators to spread the word of HECx with their respective audiences.

Education is a core component of conservation as well as caring for today’s elephants.  We thank YOU, our supporters, for helping us provide quality learning opportunities that will pay themselves forward to even larger audiences.