North American Zoos Fund Elephant Conservation Worldwide

SILVER SPRING, Maryland, January 8, 2010 (ENS) – The International Elephant Foundation and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have jointly announced financial support totalling about $200,000 for 16 elephant conservation projects for 2010.

This relatively small amount will fund projects in both Asia and Africa that are expected to help mitigate human-elephant conflict, combat poaching, protect habitat, prevent disease, advance research and educate people.

An elephant and its handler encounter a cyclist on Highway 13 in southern Laos. (Photo by Ian)

One project will microchip the entire domesticated Asian elephant population of Laos. This is expected to help in monitoring the illegal capture of elephants from the wild and the smuggling of elephants to neighboring nations.

Another, seeks to establish an elephant sanctuary in Nigeria’s Omo-Shasha-Oluwa Forest which still harbors a remnant population of forest elephants. Threatened by logging and over-hunting, studies show that this population of forest elephants could become extinct within five years.

“Elephants need our help,” said IEF Executive Director Deborah Olson. “Essential elephant conservation work will continue thanks to the elephants here in North America that inspire support for the International Elephant Foundation. In addition, protecting elephants and their habitat also safeguards many other species big and small who share the same territory and migration routes.”

IEF is a nonprofit organization established in 1998 by a group of zoos and other elephant exhibitors to support elephant conservation around the world and receives a substantial portion of its funding from AZA-accredited zoos.

“Elephants in AZA-accredited zoos are wildlife ambassadors who educate the public and raise money to support vital IEF conservation efforts,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy.

“IEF is helping the Uganda Conservation Foundation to invest in proactive and catalyst projects to strengthen elephant management across Queen Elizabeth National Park,” said Michael Keigwin, founder, trustee and director of the Uganda Conservation Foundation. “Without IEF, Uganda Conservation Foundation would be unable to support the Uganda Wildlife Authority in recovering critical elephant populations from poaching, communities from crop raiding and habitats from illegal activity.”

Over the past 10 years, elephants in Kenya have benefited from conservation activities funded by $265,000 from the International Elephant Foundation.

“The International Elephant Foundation partners with the Northern Rangelands Trust to support community-led conservation in 15 community conservancies covering a vast 6,000 square kilometers in northern Kenya,” said the Trust’s Executive Director Ian Craig.

This year IEF grants will support projects in both Asia and Africa as well as the 2010 International Elephant Conservation and Research Symposium January 25-29 in Pretoria, South Africa.

Asian Elephant Projects

  • Kouprey Express Program: Assam Elephant Education and Public Outreach, Cambodia This project will connect young people directly with wildlife conservation issues and provide detailed information about elephant education and wildlife conservation efforts to 300,000 Cambodians and international visitors.
  • Assessing Elephant Population Viability and Mitigating Human-Elephant Conflict in Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia This project will support the Human-Elephant Conflict Response team by providing mitigation tools and delivering improved elephant-friendly farming strategies to local people. Camera trapping at saltlicks will obtain photographs of the area’s elephants to ascertain the sex and age structure to help determine the herd’s long-term viability as a sustainable population.
  • Wild elephant near Coimbatore, India (Photo by Sean Cannery)
  • Promoting Human-Elephant Coexistence in Coimbatore, India This project will educate all people living in or near elephant habitat of Coimbatore, in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu to improve their attitudes towards wild elephants so as to avoid conflict, adapt innovative educational tools to bring about attitude and behavioral change to people living near elephant habitat. It will train 90 key educators to use these tools effectively.
  • Sumatra Elephant Conservation Response Units, Indonesia This ongoing project by IEF on the island of Sumatra mitigates negative human-elephant interactions to improve local perception by utilizing once neglected captive elephants and their mahouts (handlers) for direct field based conservation interventions for wild elephants. Other goals include reducing wildlife crime through forest patrols and establishing community-based ecotourism for long-term financial sustainability.
  • ElefantAsia: Domesticated Elephant Advanced Registration, Laos This project will microchip the domesticated Asian elephant population of Laos which will help to monitor the illegal capture of elephants from the wild, the smuggling of elephants to neighboring nations, strengthen skills and capacity of local government departments, and will provide a greater ability for population forecasting, scientific study and breeding opportunities for the elephant population in human care.
  • Consultation on Trans-boundary Agreement to Develop Indo-Nepal Elephant Conservation Plan, Nepal This project will start a consultation on a transboundary agreement along the border between Nepal and India’s West Bengal state to develop a joint plan for long term conservation of elephant populations. A series of workshops will involve all transboundary stakeholders and an educational program will be held to generate tolerance among local communities.

African Elephant Projects

  • Elephant Kisima and Lturoto crews, Ndoto Ranges, Kenya Kisimas are deep excavations made by elephants and people to access water in Kenya’s arid Northern Frontier District. Nomadic peoples construct kisimas over 25 feet deep which become hazardous to wild elephants and other animals. This project will create a network of crews from the local Samburu and Rendille communities who will, with the guidance of 24 community scouts, restructure existing kisimas into elephant-friendly water holes as well as create new small water reservoirs.
  • Capacity Building by the Northern Rangelands Trust, Kenya The role of the Northern Rangelands Trust is to develop the capacity and self-sufficiency of its constituent community conservancies in biodiversity conservation, natural resource management and natural resources based enterprises.
  • Monitoring and Outreach for Desert Elephants of the Southern Kunene, Namibia This project implements population census and distribution surveys of the southern Kunene desert elephants. It will integrate this information into the Kunene Regional Ecological Assessment – an ongoing multi-stakeholder project to develop synchronized, incentive-driven, community and science-based land management plans. It will foster sustainability by ensuring all activities are cost-effective and fully supported by the stakeholders.
  • Establish an Elephant Sanctuary in the Omo-Shasha-Oluwa Forest, Nigeria The Omo-Shasah-Oluwa Forest Reserves contain some of the last remaining forests in southwestern Nigeria and harbor a remnant population of forest elephants. Threatened by logging and over-hunting, studies show that this population of forest elephants could become extinct within five years. This project will survey communities near the forest areas to understand the human pressures on them and recommend ways to work with these communities to protect the forests. The project will support liaison with the three state governments to re-gazette the forests and assist with their protection.
  • Elephants in Nigeria’s Yankari Reserve (Photo by Rich Bergl, North Carolina Zoological Park) 
  • Protect Nigeria’s Largest Elephant Population, Yankari Reserve, Nigeria Yankari Game Reserve contains the largest surviving population of elephants in Nigeria and is also inhabited by populations of lion, buffalo, hippo, and many species of antelope. Since management of the reserve has been neglected, there has been a resurgence of poaching, especially of elephants for the ivory trade. This project aims at building capacity by helping to increase anti-poaching patrols, establishing a Cybertracker monitoring system and surveying human-elephant conflicts.
  • Elephants, Crops and People and the Waterways Project, Uganda Conservation Foundation, Uganda This multi-year partnership between IEF and UCF has resulted in the development of a system of fencing and trenches that keep elephants out of fields and villages while protecting human lives and allowing children to attend school without a fear of elephants. The project has constructed and equipped multiple marine stations on the shores of Lake George in Queen Elizabeth National Park, which have enhanced the ability of law enforcement officers to reverse elephant and hippopotamus poaching and illegal fishing and to initiate water rescue for lakeside communities.
  • Save The Elephants, Africa IEF funding supports the core operation of Iain Douglas-Hamilton’s Save The Elephants conservation organization that operates projects throughout Africa. Save The Elephants does basic research on elephant behavior and ecology and has pioneered GPS radio tracking with elephants. The organization assists wildlife departments in their fight against ivory traders and poachers using aerial surveillance and radio-tracking, involves local people in research and education to develop a conservation ethic based on local knowledge and elephant needs, and disseminates information through films and publications.

Research and Education

  • Elephant Edotheliotropic Herpes Virus Research International Elephant Foundation is the primary funder of the National Herpesvirus laboratory at the Smithsonian National Zoo and directs and funds multiple studies aimed at identifying the causes of EEHV in an effort to prevent future EEHV fatalities. Studies include identifying the status of EEHV in individual elephants and their potential for further transmission, and identify predisposing factors that make specific elephants more susceptible to the disease and identifying effective treatments. EEHV effects both wild and managed elephant populations.
  • Publication of the Journal of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group Gajah is the Journal of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Asian Elephant Specialist Group. Gajah shares best practices and builds capacity among managers, conservationists, researchers and to those interested in the management and conservation of the Asian elephant, both wild and those in human care.

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