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.

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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.