Not only was August Elephant Awareness month in the state of Tennessee, but since 2020, it has also been a month dedicated to raising awareness about the threat facing Asian elephants in the wild and an opportunity to celebrate this endangered species as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Safe program. Although both African and Asian species of elephants are endangered, the number of wild Asian elephants is ten times less than their African counterparts, with Asian elephant populations estimated to be between 30,000 – 50,000 worldwide.
The SAFE Asian elephant's program goal is to enhance and assist Asian elephant conservation efforts within the 13 range countries by engaging communities with elephants in human care, supporting science of the treatment and management of EEHV in Asian elephant range states, and developing education materials. Throughout August, many AZA colleagues and accredited facilities join to help spread awareness through various activities and social media initiatives. To learn more about this month-long campaign, visit www.aza.org/aza-safe.
As part of our mission, The Elephant Sanctuary partners with like-minded organizations across Asia (Europe, South America, and Africa too!), all working in their respective regions to improve the lives of elephants in captivity and protect the lives of elephants in the wild. Thanks to The Elephant Sanctuary Board of Directors, and with generous support from the Mark Hopkins Schell Trust and the Janet M. Johnston Foundation, funding is made available for projects dedicated to elephant conservation, field research, education, and welfare.
During Asian Elephant Awareness Month, we are highlighting the work our international partners are doing to support Asian elephant conservation:
Wild Welfare – Malaysia
Through this partnership, funding was made available in support of Wild Welfare’s fieldwork, education, and training for improved care and welfare of captive Bornean elephants at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Malaysia.
Wild Welfare, a UK nonprofit that collaborates with leading zoos and animal welfare organizations to identify and improve the well-being of captive wild animals worldwide, proposed to use grant funding from The Sanctuary to visit Lok Kawi Wild Park (LKWP) in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (Malaysia) to conduct a welfare audit on their 14 Bornean elephants; give presentations on the topics of welfare, environmental enrichment, and positive training; and introduce the notion of Protected Contact elephant management. Their time at LKWP was met with such enthusiasm that they were able to accomplish this and much more, including the ongoing initiation of PC training and designing and building environmental enrichment.
To learn more, visit www.wildwelfare.org
Animals Asia Foundation - Vietnam
The Sanctuary is proud to partner with Animals Asia Foundation (AAF), who helps to improve animal welfare standards across China, Vietnam, and Indonesia. AAF campaigns to end abusive animal practices and work closely with governing authorities and facilities to improve animal management, increase public awareness of the welfare needs of captive and wild animals, and help to influence positive regulatory change.
Currently, Animals Asia Foundation is working to protect elephants in the province of Dak Lak, Vietnam, an area famed for its elephant-back tours, by helping aid tourism sites in ending elephant rides by 2026.
Animals Asia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dak Lak province in Vietnam, once home to Vietnam's largest elephant population. The provincial administration agreed to spend VND55 billion ($2.2 million) to help local tourism sites become more "elephant-friendly" and end all riding services. The funds, drawn from Animals Asia Foundation (AAF), will be given to facilities that care for elephants and distributed among elephant owners to help make up for loss of income. Thanks to the efforts of AAF, Yok Don National Park in Dak Lak signed an agreement to allow the elephants who have been surrendered to live freely within its park and will no longer offer elephant ride tours.
Through this partnership, The Sanctuary is able to help Animal Asia broaden the model for ethical tourism programs, removing elephants from elephant riding tourism and developing opportunities for freedom to roam in Dak Lak province.
To read more about this project, visit www.animalsasia.org.
Wildlife SOS – India
Wildlife SOS was established to make lasting changes to protect and conserve India’s natural heritage, forest and biodiversity. Wildlife SOS actively work towards protecting wildlife, conserving habitat, studying biodiversity, conducting research, and creating alternative and sustainable livelihoods for erstwhile communities that depend on wildlife for sustenance.
The Mahasamund area of Chhattisgarh is currently in the throes of human-elephant conflict ever since a herd of 19 wild elephants moved into the region after they were possibly displaced from the shrinking forests of Orissa or Jharkhand. Regular instances of crop-raiding and destruction of human habitations are the reason for the escalation of conflict. The Sanctuary has parented with Wildlife SOS, providing funding toward the continuation of the Chhattisgarh Elephant Safety Project; to better understand herd movements, the mitigation of human-elephant conflict, and the protection of wild elephants in the Mahasamund and Balodabazar region of Chhattisgarh.
To learn more about Wildlife SOS and their Human-Elephant conflict initiatives, visit: www.wildlifesos.org.