The International Elephant Foundation (IEF) announced their support for 24 conservation projects in 13 countries spanning 3 continents, adding to the over $5.5 million in direct conservation funding since its founding.
IEF’s projects address elephant conservation based on the needs of individual regions and communities, focusing on anti-poaching patrols, habitat protection, human-elephant conflict mitigation, education, preventing disease, and research.
From the shores of Zambia’s Lake Tanganyika to the forests of the Republic of Guinea and the countries in between, this year’s projects provide security, capacity building and infrastructure development for the protection of Africa’s forest and savannah elephants, while in Asia IEF’s footprint stretches from the forests of India and Nepal to Myanmar and the island of Sumatra protecting and securing habitat for Asian elephants including the critically endangered Sumatran elephant. There are only 400,000 African elephants left worldwide, and Asian elephants number a shocking 40,000 in the wild, making IEF’s efforts more imperative than ever.
It is not just elephants who benefit from these efforts, as IEF President Michael Fouraker points out, “Elephants are a keystone species, meaning other fauna and flora depend on their presence in the ecosystem. By protecting elephants we are protecting tigers, rhinos, pangolins, giraffes, cheetahs, hornbills, and much more. When donors, including zoos and zoo-goers, support IEF they are helping many species beyond the charismatic elephants who inspired them.”
“While elephants in human care often get a bad rap, one of the least discussed aspects of elephant ambassadors is their capacity to teach people to care and inspire conservation action across the world,” said Fouraker. “Most people will never travel to the lowland forests of Sumatra and see critically endangered Sumatran elephants, but IEF is able to help save them, their habitat, and all other wildlife who share that habitat because of the elephants here in the United States.” In 2019 IEF is supporting 12 Conservation Response Units (CRUs) on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, one of the longest running Asian elephant conservation projects in the world.
Many of IEF’s 2019 projects bridge the gap between ex-situ and in-situ elephant populations, including exciting research taking the next step towards a vaccine for Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV), which affects young elephants in human care and in the wild, is over 80% fatal, and has no known cure. Domestic elephants offering biological samples and access to researchers will help save the lives of generations of elephants in Earth’s last remaining wild places. “There is real hope that progress will be made to fight and prevent this insidious disease,” said Deborah Olson, IEF’s Executive Director.
Be it in Asia or Africa, in the lab to in the field, IEF is ready to help secure a better future for elephants and all wild creatures in wild places.