Author: Heidi Riddle
In a historic effort to save and conserve the Asian elephant, Government representatives from the 13 Asian countries which still have extant populations of wild Asian elephants, gathered at the Asian Elephant Range States Meeting to improve collaboration and cooperation in order to protect elephants in Asia.
The Asian Elephant Range States Meeting, hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Republic of Indonesia, took place from April 18 to 20, 2017, in Jakarta, Indonesia. The meeting was facilitated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG), and supported by the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additional support was provided by the International Elephant Foundation, Regain Foundation, and the European Union Indonesia Office.
Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam are the Asian elephant range countries committed to implementing a strategic Action Plan for Asian elephants, envisioned by the “The Jakarta Declaration for Asian Elephant Conservation” which was one of the outcomes of this Asian Elephant Range States Meeting. Deliberations stressed that the crisis facing Asian elephants overwhelms local capabilities and transcends national boundaries. Noting that saving elephants is a global challenge, the delegates called for a partnership of national governments and other stakeholders. The cooperative atmosphere was noted by Deborah Olson, Executive Director of IEF, saying, “It was a privilege for the International Elephant Foundation to support and participate in this momentous meeting. Even though the problems facing the long-term survival of the Asian elephant are difficult and many, all of the delegates, countries and organizations involved are committed to protecting the remaining populations.”
This epochal gathering strengthened Government networking among the Asian elephant range countries. It helped to identify common problems and shared lessons learned, knowledge, and experiences to conserve Asian elephants across their range, and emphasized the need to raise awareness about Asian elephants with other Government agencies, and national and international media and donors.
As a result of delegate discussions covering topics such as elephant population management, Human Elephant Conflict mitigation, poaching and illegal trade, the 13 Asian elephant range countries agreed to strengthen international collaborations, improve scientific monitoring to help restore the species’ habitat, create transboundary corridors, and halt poaching and illegal trade of ivory. The actions agreed to during the meeting also underscore the importance of creating incentives for local communities to protect elephants, and strengthening wildlife law enforcement and legislation to achieve the targets outlined in “The Jakarta Declaration for Asian Elephant Conservation”. ““Our long-term hope for this meeting is to bring attention to and create champions for the Asian elephant much like the poaching crisis has rallied governments, organizations, the general public and the media to the plight of the African elephant, which numbers 10 times more in population than the Asian elephant,” Olson added.
The meeting culminated with a Signing Ceremony of “The Jakarta Declaration of Asian Elephant Conservation” on April 20. The Indonesia Secretary General to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry , Dr. Ir. Bambang Hendroyono, MM, presided over the Signing Ceremony and spoke of the need for sustained efforts and mutual cooperation amongst Asian elephant range countries. The Signing Ceremony was attended by over one hundred dignitaries from various countries.
IEF is heading to Earth Day Texas, the world’s largest Earth Day event! Last year this EDTx connected over 130,000 people with exhibitors, speakers and conservationists. We are excited to be a part of it this year and inspire people to care about building a sustainable future for elephants!
When? April 21-23
Where? Fair Park, Dallas, Texas
Our earth is not merely a resource for us – it is the source of life. Earth Day Texas is working tirelessly to educate and inspire individuals, communities and corporations to consider ways in which we can all contribute to a sustainable environment. We are bridging the divide between understanding the need for environmental solutions and actively participating in day-to-day activities that protect our earth from environmental harms. The best way for you to feel the connection between your personal desire to preserve the earth and our collective work is to take ownership through engagement, volunteering and financial support. This work cannot continue without you!
Congratulations to the Tegal Yoso Conservation Response Unit (CRU) Team on the birth of two healthy baby elephants in the same week!
At 2:30 AM on March 20th Riska gave birth to a healthy baby girl! Then a few days later on March 27th at 2:15 AM Dona gave birth to a healthy baby boy!
One of IEF’s signature conservation programs are the CRU teams protecting Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra. While all elephants in Indonesia are officially owned by the government, the CRU elephants live under the care of the mahouts and wildlife rangers of the CRUs. Their expertise and caring eye has raised the level of care for these elephants, which was acknowledged by the authorities when they entrusted two pregnant females in their care.
These new calfs represent two jumbo steps away from extinction for this critically endangered elephant population. Their births are a testament to the great care, dedication, and experience of the mahouts who are a tremendous asset to elephant conservation. We are proud of their work, both for wild elephant populations and for the elephants in their care!
Support the CRUs and the great work they do protecting elephants, habitat, and other wildlife.
Source of photo: Netral News (http://www.en.netralnews.com/)
Woburn in the UK sent us this fabulous photo to share
Conservation requires a great deal of ‘thinking forward’–thinking forward towards the next project, thinking forward towards policy developments, thinking forward for population numbers, and thinking forward for the future of elephants. This month, we are pleased to highlight some of the many ways IEF thinks forward including fostering the healthy birth and care of baby elephants, spreading conservation messaging, and of course planning projects for next year!
We’d also like to thank our supporters at Woburn Safari Park in the United Kingdom for this month’s Newsletter Headline Photo! Their annual Elephant Conservation Weekend over Easter is a fantastic event, bringing together wildlife enthusiasts, keepers, animal ambassadors, and the public to foster conservation education and get everyone ‘thinking forward’.
IEF-supported projects protect elephants from poaching, seek solutions for human-elephant conflict, equip and train community conservationists, increase our knowledge of the treatment and prevention of disease and educate people.
In 2017, IEF will provide over $600,000 to support elephant conservation around the world, adding to the over $4 million total invested in conserving elephants since our inception in 1998. The following elephant conservation projects will receive support from IEF in 2017.
Will you join us supporting these projects? DONATE TODAY
The International Elephant Foundation (IEF) is now accepting proposals for 2018 Elephant Conservation and Research Funding Support.
AFRICAN ELEPHANT Conservation Funding Support.
- Human-elephant conflict mitigation and coexistence
- Reducing habitat fragmentation and loss
- Action to eliminate illegal killing and trafficking of elephants
- Community capacity building
- Conservation education
ASIAN ELEPHANT Conservation Funding Support.
- Human-elephant conflict mitigation and coexistence
- Reducing habitat fragmentation and loss.
- Action to eliminate illegal killing and trafficking of elephants
- Community capacity building
- Conservation education
- Managing captive range country Asian elephants
- Review the Jakarta Declaration for Asian Elephant Conservation- Jakarta, Indonesia
Elephants in Human Care Conservation and Research Funding Support.
- Critical diseases – EEHV or Tuberculosis.
- Quantify the impacts of conservation education at U.S elephant holding facilities on public action in the U.S and/or in Asian and/or African elephant range countries.
Proposals must be received at the IEF office by 11:59 pm CST on 11 August 2017.
Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) oversees 33 community conservancies and is dedicated to developing the capacity and self-sufficiency of its constituent communities who in return protect their wildlife and habitat. Giraffes, rhinos, lions, zebra, antelope are just a few of the species benefitting from this protection through the patrolling of armed wildlife rangers who risk their lives daily in the fight against poachers. The work of the anti-poaching teams has led to significant declines in elephant poaching throughout NRT reversing the trend which had been steadily increasing since 2010. Populations of lions and giraffes are increasing in numbers and not a single rhino has been killed for over two years. NRT rangers forego comfort and safety on a daily basis. They take pride in wearing the uniform, a symbol to the public and poacher alike that they have pledged their lives to the protection of life, property and wildlife.
Remember: December 31 is your last opportunity to make a tax deductible donation in 2016.
The Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus (EEHV) Advisory Group met in Atlanta, GA, the Saturday following the joint American Association of Zoo Veterinarians/European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians conference in July 2016. This was the second meeting of the Advisory Group since its inception in 2014. Attendees included 13 Advisory Group members and 18 invited guests, representing 6 countries total, including veterinarians, researchers, and elephant management specialists. The meeting began with regional updates from North America, Europe, and Asia, covering important topics such as potential new diagnostic options for screening at risk calves, evaluation of shedding during elephant transfer, a census of cases and research efforts in Europe, and reports of wild elephant deaths from EEHV in India. The group then turned their focus to updating two documents that outline the Standards of Care for Elephant Calves (as related to EEHV) and EEHV Monitoring and Diagnostic Testing. These two important resources are currently under revision, with new updates being available soon.
Other topics discussed included African elephants and EEHV, with a sub group of attendees from African elephant institutions committing to work together on developing more information and eventual guidelines for monitoring for EEHV in African calves and herds. Because EEHV is a global problem with elephants in both human care and in range countries, the Advisory group will identify regional Steering Committees which can better assist with supporting research and collaborative efforts in their specific geographical areas. This reorganization will facilitate the broader dissemination of information and best practices.
The EEHV Advisory Group is still determining the best methods for endorsing research projects, the protocol for which will likely vary by region. The website supported by the EEHV Advisory Group, www.eehvinfo.org, is currently undergoing a major overhaul and will be fully updated very soon. This website continues to be a major resource for EEHV Collaborators as well as clinicians and animal care personnel learning about EEHV for the first time.
The group concluded in the afternoon developing a list to prioritize the various areas of EEHV-related research, to help guide future researchers and collaborators on what the biggest needs of the community are. The results are listed below:
- Virus Culture
- Antiviral Efficacy
- Pathogenesis, pathophysiology of hemorrhagic disease
- Vaccine Development
- Risk Factors Associated with EEHV HD
- Elephant Host Immune Response; Adaptive (cytokines, T cells, antibodies)
- Antibody Test
- Hemostatic response; Clotting, platelets, etc
- African elephant epidemiology
- EEHV Shedding (origin of shedding, saliva vs trunk wash, fetal fluids)
- Early morphological changes to detect disease (lymph nodes)
- Elephant Host Immune Response: Innate (cytokines, host defenses, acute phase proteins)
- Genetics related to EEHV (Elephant genetics) and viral evolution
- Wild Asian elephant surveys
- Aciclovir pharmacokinetic study (PK) in Asian elephants
- Famciclovir PK Study in Africans
- Ganciclovir PK in Asian elephants
The complete report of the EEHV Advisory Group, as well as the updated documents on Standards of Care for elephant calves and Monitoring and Testing, will be available to the public on www.eehvinfo.org by mid October 2016.
The EEHV Advisory Group would like to acknowledge their generous sponsors, without whom this critical meeting would not have taken place:
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians
International Elephant Foundation
Oklahoma City Zoo
Ft. Worth Zoo
Ringling Bros Center for Elephant Conservation
Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Donate your old vehicle to the International Elephant Foundation (IEF)
Wondering what to do with your used car, truck, motorcycle or boat? Donating your old vehicle to the International Elephant Foundation (IEF), is convenient, easy, and may qualify you for a tax deduction. And best of all, your donation will make a big difference in supporting IEF’s Asian and African elephant conservation and protection programs.
All you need to do is to complete our simple online form or call 1-866-628-2277 and we’ll take care of the rest.
We will pick up your vehicle, arrange to have your donation towed, and provide you with a tax-deductible receipt, all at no charge to you.
Call 1-866-628-2277 or online at www.elephantconservation.org.
Uganda’s Elephants: The Real Story is a 7 minute long video. Produced with Verity White to provide schools, universities, wildlife training institute, the tourism and conservation sectors a tool to help understand Uganda’s natural heritage and history a little better.
Elephant Conservation, Outreach & Elephant Diseases
IEF is very excited to start a new interview segment in our eNewsletter, aiming to have conservationists explain their work in their own words. We hope to inspire and show what it takes to be on the front lines of elephant conservation. We are honored to have our inaugural interview with Dr. Michele Miller. She has extensively studied tuberculosis in elephants and her project Disease Risk Analyses for Tuberculosis Detection and Prevalence in Elephants was supported by IEF.
Question: Where did you study? How did you get started?
Dr. Miller: My graduate studies were completed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I received a MSc and PhD in veterinary immunology and a DVM. This was followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at the San Diego Zoo Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species, investigating immune responses to various infectious diseases of wildlife. This training along with practical experience as a zoo veterinary clinician has provided a broad base for my current research.
Question: What first inspired you to focus your research on elephants?
Dr. Miller: I’ve always been fascinated with elephants since a child. Once I became a zoo veterinarian, I had the opportunity to work closely with these species and developed a life-long commitment to improving our knowledge to provide better welfare for human-managed animals and conserve wild populations.
Question: When and where did you first see an elephant in person? How did it affect you?
Dr. Miller: As a young child, my family would take me to the Milwaukee Zoo. I was enthralled watching the elephants and decided I would become a veterinarian working with wildlife. I also remember the annual circus parade in which the elephants walked down the street – their massive size and magnificent presence left a lasting impression.
Question: How important is it for the public to experience elephants in person and be inspired to care?
Dr. Miller: I think that it is very important for the public to have the opportunity to experience elephants in person. Being in the presence of elephants stimulates multiple senses – visual, olfactory, and auditory experiences that create a more complete awareness of elephants than can be provided by media such as television. Watching their complex behavior gives insight into the important role elephants play in their environment and help inspire people to learn more and become involved in conserving these species.
Question: What do you wish was more widely known about elephants?
Dr. Miller: Elephants are subject to many of the same health issues that confront other long-lived species such as humans. For instance, degenerative joint disease occurs more frequently in older elephants, just as in us as we age. Elephants are also susceptible to a variety of infectious diseases, including TB and a type of elephant herpesvirus.
Question: What misconception about elephants would you like to correct?
Dr. Miller: Elephants have very complex social interactions, which we are still learning about. They communicate through touch, smell, sound, and visual cues. It is important for their welfare that we provide adequate space and opportunity for elephants to interact with each other, whether it is in managed care or the wild.
Question: How can in-situ and ex-situ conservation work hand-in-hand?
Dr. Miller: We can learn and study animals in both the wild and managed care to understand the biology and behavior of these species. Ex-situ conservation activities can provide insight into nutritional needs, disease issues, and techniques for handling, transport, and other management, that might take much longer and be logistically more difficult to determine in wild populations. However, the information we gather from in-situ conservation creates a valuable knowledge that can improve the welfare of managed elephants. The conservation work done in-situ and ex-situ should be synergistic.
Question: How would you explain elephant TB to someone who has no experience in elephant management?
Dr. Miller: TB in elephants can be caused by the same bacteria that cause TB in humans and cattle. Most cases of elephant TB are the human form. Like humans, it is a very slow chronic disease and many elephants can be infected for years without showing any outward signs. TB can be diagnosed by taking samples from the trunk, similar to how humans are sampled (sputum), although the bacteria may not always be present even if an individual is infected. Therefore, it is important to improve our knowledge and tools for detecting TB at earlier stages so that we can prevent development of disease in the affected animal as well as minimize the risk of transmission to other animals and people.
Question: Is elephant TB treatable or curable?
Dr. Miller: Elephant TB can be treated with a course of drugs for human TB. Some of the challenges are that the drugs need to be given over a prolonged period of time (up to a year or more) and they can cause side-effects which may delay completion of treatment. Whether TB is cured or not, is difficult to determine, even in humans. Since we are unable to take chest x-rays of elephants or determine changes in disease, we don’t have good measures of how effective treatment is. However, our experience has shown that the treatment can stop the secretion of bacteria which is a risk to other animals and important in managing this disease.
Question: Can humans contract TB from elephants? If so, under what circumstances?
Dr. Miller: Although it is possible, there are no documented cases of a person getting the disease from an elephant. Under rare circumstances, people who are in close contact with elephants (such as handlers) have been shown to have a positive skin test (this is a test of exposure to the bacteria but doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has disease). Similar to TB in people, we believe that causal contact with elephants (such as at a zoo) presents a very low risk. It is probably more likely that you would get infected from other humans than elephants.
Question: How does elephant TB affect elephant conservation work? The future of elephants?
Dr. Miller: TB, like any disease issue, can impact conservation directly through loss of valuable individuals as well as indirectly through potential regulatory restrictions on movement of animals for translocation. There is incomplete understanding of the impact of this disease in both ex-situ and in-situ populations. Since this slow disease is difficult to detect even in elephants under managed care, we may not truly understand the potential impact on elephants into the future.
Question: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Dr. Miller: The International Elephant Foundation recognizes the importance of understanding the role of disease in conservation. Through this support, we have been able to gather information that will improve our knowledge of TB in elephants and create a foundation for measuring our progress into the future
Jumbo thanks to
Michele Miller, DVM, MPH, Ph.D.
Professor, South African Research Chair in Animal TB
DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research
MRC Centre for TB Research
Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Cape Town, South Africa
Michele Miller, DVM, MS, MPH, Ph.D., is staff veterinarian of wildlife medicine at the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation,. Specializing in immunology, infectious diseases and interaction with the environment. Conservation projects include desert pronghorn (Mexico), and pygmy hippo (West Africa). Current in situ projects focus on elephant and rhino issues in Africa, as well as tuberculosis issues in New World primates, elephants, large cats, wild ungulates and other captive and free-ranging wildlife.
Interview reprinted courtesy of the National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory at Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
Dr. Gary Hayward, John Hopkins University
(1) HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN EEHV RESEARCH?
I first developed an interest in viruses and DNA as a teenager, which led me to experiment with agarose gel electrophoresis for separating bacteriophage DNA molecules of different sizes for my PhD thesis research. I published the first restriction cleavage patterns of human herpes simplex virus genomes in 1975. During a more than 45 year career in DNA research focused mostly on the molecular biology of the many different types of human herpesviruses, I always also had an interest in conservation issues as well as virus evolution and published the complete genome sequence of chimpanzee cytomegalovirus in 2004. Naturally then when Laura Richman first told me that she thought Kumari had died of a previously unknown herpesvirus infection I jumped at the chance to study the problem, including inviting her to come and do her PhD studies on EEHV in my laboratory at Johns Hopkins.
(2) WHAT ARE YOUR ONGOING RESEARCH PROJECTS?
Together with our close collaborators in Paul Ling’s group in Houston we have just assembled the complete 200,000-bp complete genome sequence of EEHV4, the fourth type of Asian elephant Proboscivirus and the first of the GC-rich branch to be so characterized. There has also been major progress in characterizing the most divergent
genes from numerous distinct EEHV1 strains directly from pathological samples collected by a concerned consortium of veterinarians and our other collaborators from all around the world. We also keep hoping to get a breakthrough in our attempts to culture and propagate these viruses from clinical samples in laboratory cell culture, and we continue efforts to generate multiple clones for expressing enough antigens from each of the sequenced EEHV species in yeast to develop a robust multiplex serology chip assay that may finally overcome the major problems of antibody cross- reactions between them.
(3) BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR EEHV RESEARCH?
Understanding why 20% of Asian elephant calves worldwide are susceptible to life-threatening acute hemorrhagic disease when undergoing primary infection with EEHV1 (or sometimes other EEHV types), whereas African elephants which harbor just as many types of EEHV species of their own hardly ever get disease. Other than our very successful virus hunting and diagnostic DNA tests that have identified clinical samples suitable for extensive genetic characterization there is little hope of significant further progress in understanding or combating this devastating disease without a major influx of new research funding. Whilst I still ran an active well-funded research laboratory studying human herpesvirus disease it was easy to borrow expertise and a little bit of time and effort from my postdoctoral fellows to clone and express EEHV genes, or carry out IFA and IHC assays or develop specific rabbit antibodies for example, but that is no longer the case, and the number of hands-on laboratory personnel involved have now dwindled down from five or six to just three and dropping. Furthermore, both Virginia Pearson (our collaborator on African elephant herpesvirus identification) and I have been working extensively essentially as unpaid volunteers for several years now. The International Elephant Foundation, the Morris Animal Foundation and a Collections Stewardship Leadership grant from the IMLS have contributed essential funding that has kept our EEHV research projects limping along, but my group will have to totally close down within a year or so without the kind of generous funding from a private donor that currently supports the EEHV research in Paul Ling’s laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
(4) WHERE DO YOU SEE EEHV PREVENTION, DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT IN FIVE YEARS?
No real change. There is at present virtually nothing known about the immunology of the elephant hosts themselves or of this novel new group of mammalian herpesviruses. Without cell culture and lots of funding, there is also really no realistic hope of vaccines within the near future, and it is only the ability to carry out close blood test DNA monitoring of calves and to respond to “viremic” illness with rapid good medical care that has improved the management of the disease in the USA in recent years. But it has been a major financial challenge just to keep the dedicated expertise necessary for this in Erin Latimer’s NEHL diagnostic laboratory, as well as in my molecular genetic strain subtyping group, together from one year to the next, let alone get serious about any more extensive efforts at finding better anti-EEHV drugs or exploring the mechanisms of EEHV pathogenesis.
R. Marimuthu and B.A. Daniel
International Elephant Foundation IEF funded a project to conduct 10 Human Elephant Coexistence street plays, two days teacher- training workshops and 2 school education programmes in Erode Forest Division, Tamil Nadu. Zoo Outreach Organization conducted several teacher-training workshops in India (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal), Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Indonesia and Thailand. This had an escalating effect in which participants of the training have created momentum in their institution or organization or on their own and as the educators they trained, educated more students.
Click here to download Magazine pdf.
For years, Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey has provided an opportunity for children and adults to see elephants up close and be amazed at their size, agility and intelligence, and in many this experience grew into a love of animals and the environment. What is not as well known is the incredible commitment that Ringling Bros. and the Feld family have made to the preservation of the critically endangered Asian elephant through their support of the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) and their own conservation programs supporting both wild and captive elephants in Sri Lanka.
The tragic decimation of some African elephant populations for their ivory tusks is currently receiving the worldwide attention it deserves but the fight to protect all elephants continues to be an uphill battle. A more important story, is that not all elephants are under the same threat of poaching. The Asian elephant, which has more than ten times fewer individuals – 30,000 – 40,000 Asian elephants worldwide compared to 300,000 – 500,000 African elephants – is disappearing at an unprecedented rate throughout Southeast Asia due to habitat loss and human-elephant conflict. Every day Asian elephants are killed because their habitat is being taken by large-scale plantations, development concessions for logging/mining/road construction, altered by dams, small-scale farmers and growing rural communities.
This is a message that will no longer be as effectively communicated to the millions of people who attend Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus annually to see elephants. At a time when elephants are at risk of disappearing from the planet, we are sad that fewer children and adults will be able to see and develop a connection with a live Asian elephant in their home town, but IEF is pleased that Ringling Bros’ commitment to Asian elephants and their conservation will continue and even grow.
IEF is an organization working diligently and successfully for conservation of elephants. If you would like to learn more about the IEF or any of its many elephant conservation and research projects please visit the International Elephant Foundation website.