NAKA aims to continue the legacy of The Asian Elephant Foundation (TAEF) by supporting and funding elephant conservation and welfare projects throughout Asia.
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Below are both previous TAEF and NAKA supported projects
In 1993 Soraida Salwala founded the world’s first elephant hospital in Lampang, Thailand. FAE treats elephants that suffer from illnesses, traffic accidents, human abuse and, most famously, Thai elephants maimed and crippled by landmines while logging in Myanmar. Soraida and her team have treated over 2,400 elephants either at her sophisticated hospital or by FAE’s Mobile Vet Program, where veterinarians travel all over Northern Thailand to provide treatment in the field. FAE meets all expenses so poor elephant owners receive free treatment. NAKA recently provided both funds and design expertise to create a much improved website for FAE.
Over the past few decades, logging and illegal slash-and-burn agriculture have left many elephants in Sumatra with no safe place to live and forced them into crop raiding. Rather than leave them to die of starvation or the farmers’ revenge, Indonesian authorities captured many displaced wild elephants and brought them into government centers. The Elephant Health Care Program (EHCP) of VSSWIC helps to provide regular veterinary care and management to these captives, including on-call emergency response. EHCP also includes human capacity building, training mahouts and staff in the basics of medical care, hygiene, biology, and improved and more humane control techniques. The EHCP program encourages and supports the use of captive elephants and mahouts in conserving wild elephants, especially forest patrols to prevent HEC but also to provide veterinary care for wild elephants, to rescue of injured or trapped elephants, and to help in elephant translocations, including fitting GPS collars on wild elephants . The saddest job is perform necropsies on dead wild elephants.
The northeastern state of Assam has 1,303 captive elephants, some in government hands but others in private ownership. These elephants are used primarily in logging and anti-poaching duties, but a few particularly magnificent tuskers are used in religious rites and ceremonial processions. Gauhati University’s Mobile Elephant Clinic (MEC) program provides free medical care but it emphasizes preventive medicine and educating mahouts so as to stop problems before they begin. The MEC also conducts medial research and is helping to develop and promote stricter and more efficient legislation safeguarding the captives’ welfare.
In cooperation with the Lao National Animal Health Center, Elefantasia operates Mobile Veterinary Units providing free veterinary care for working elephants suffering from illness or injury. About 20 carefully planned field missions and 15-20 emergency trips are conducted every year. The units visit logging sites, tourism venues and elephant villages. They educate mahouts on basic care, hygiene, diseases, and medicines. Elephants needing long term care are brought to the hospital at the Elephant Conservation Center, in Sayaboury province, where they and their mahouts receive free care, food and accommodation for as long as needed. The Veterinary Units also implant microchips and register elephants, issuing them with elephant ID cards. (Elefantasia created the first sophisticated relational database for elephants anywhere in Asia.) The ID cards and database are essential in stopping illegal capture of wild elephants and the illegal sale and smuggling of elephants, particularly calves, to Thailand.
For ten years BTEH has been developing an integrated approach to protect Asian elephants and their habitat, combining community participation, education, research and capacity building. A large population of wild elephants, about 220, survives in the Tenasserim Range straddling the Thailand-Myanmar border, but they are threatened with shrinking and degrading habitat, reduced biodiversity, and increasing conflict with humans. Numbers are declining. A BTEH in the Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanchanaburi province, is working to restore, enlarge, and protect their habitat and migration routes.
A tree nursery will grow 20,000 seedlings of ‘framework’ species annually and plant 100,000 trees within five years. The project will create fifty new watering sources, and the planted trees will increase food for wildlife. Local communities will benefit economically from jobs in reforestation and hosting homestay for volunteers working at tree planting. Villagers have come to see the wild elephants as a boon rather than a menace.
The state of Assam encompasses several national parks that provide vital habitat for rich and diverse wildlife, such as one-horned rhinoceroses, tigers and elephants. Unfortunately, this haven is gravely threatened by poaching. These endangered species desperately require help, especially in bringing the well-funded poachers to justice. Innovative and effective methods in tackling poaching are essential.
DSWF has for nearly twenty years worked with an Indian foundation, Aaranyak, to protect endangered animals in Assam. In 1998 a Wildlife Crime Monitoring Unit (WCMU) was created to to improve boost intelligence gathering and anti-poaching capacity. The national government has pledged to double the number of forest guards, and DSWF funding is helping to further train staff. In 2011, DSWF expanded its support Kaziranga National Park, creating a canine squad with specially trained Belgian Shepherds. The dogs can not only track down poachers but also scent stashes of poached tiger skin and bones, ivory and rhino horn. Over thirty poachers were arrested in 2012, greatly deterring others.
Wild elephants in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu state are under great pressure from human encroachment and habitat loss. To help mitigate these problems, WNCT’s Elephant Conservation, Education and Awareness program will be carried out in 20 schools and colleges, in 30 villages bordering the district, and in 20 resort camps. The aim is to create awareness on elephant behavior and their importance in the ecosystem. Fun but factual instructive materials, stickers, posters and other material are being developed for students and villagers to ensure as broad a campaign as possible. Particular attention will be given to immediate dangers such as high-tension wire fencing, road crossing by elephants, more careful driving by guides, and especially the poaching and killing of elephants.
Wildlife Alliance combats deforestation, wildlife extinction, and poverty by partnering with local communities and governments to promote awareness, education and action. Wildlife Alliance has been working with the Phnom Tamau Rescue Centre, established 11 years ago and one of Asia’s best rescue and care facilities. The centre is currently home to five elephants rescued from conflict situations, including Chouk, Cambodia’s first elephant to receive a prosthetic foot. About 300,000 people, 200,000 them Cambodians, visit the centre every year, but until now there has been a lack of educational materials. An Elephant Conservation Centre funded by NAKA is now being constructed next to the elephant enclosure, and once finished it will house a permanent exhibition and teaching resource for all visitors about the critical need to preserve Asian elephants and their habitat.
Think science. Think education. Think elephants is the slogan of TEI, a US-based non-profit charity that uses research and education to promote the conservation of elephants and related wildlife. TEI works primarily in Thailand, studying the behavior and intelligence of captive elephants. The foundation’s goal is to make scientific research more accessible to the general public, especially younger students. TEI has run successful education initiatives in the US and is now establishing science-based programs in Thailand, where elephants still exist in the wild. The conservation education curriculum will be implemented in twenty public schools in or near Bangkok. The program will feature lessons about elephant biology, wildlife conservation, and research methods. The program will motivate students to become more interested not only in elephant conservation but also possible careers in science and environmental problems.
Elephants in Sabah state on the island of Borneo have suffered heavily from the loss of lowland forest habitat to oil palm plantations, making them prone to stress, conflict, and even being killed by plantation employees. The Danau Girang Field Center is dedicated to mitigating human-elephant conflict at plantations in the Central Sabah Managed Elephant Range. The Center will rescue and translocate elephants, fitting them with satellite collars so as to monitor their movement patterns within and outside the plantations. (WWF-Malaysia, in collaboration with Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre, has already placed satellite-collars on key elephants in four herds of elephants.) The new data will be analyzed and used to propose reserved forest areas and migration corridors and to develop human-elephant conflict mitigation guidelines for oil palm estates. This effort will culminate in a two day workshop involving the estates, the Sabah Wildlife Department, and the Sabah Foundation, hopefully resulting in implementation. This project will also increase public awareness of the obstacles to conservation of elephants on Borneo.
The Asian Elephant Foundation has contributed to WWF Hong Kong. WWF operates a joint program with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and also works in cooperation with CITES. Hong Kong is infamous as a busy entrepot for the illegal trade in ivory, in fact the largest market in the world. Nearly all of the ivory is from African elephants. Illegal ivory is laundered hiding behind Hong Kong’s legal stock of ivory imported before 1990. Much ivory is exported without the needed permits. WWF has called upon the Hong Kong government to ban the ivory trade by rapidly phasing out sales and processing, and in May of 2014 Hong Kong incinerated the first thirty tons of ivory. WWF-HK has set up a new team to accelerate the ban, and in January 2016 Hong Kong’s Chief Executive announced that the government would actively explore stopping the trade.
The Myanmar government has a new policy to reduce logging year by year leading to a total ban on the export of timber. This admirable goal will have the problematic side effect of throwing many of the 3,000 elephants currently dragging logs out of work. About 500 of the older elephants and some orphans are suitable to be released back to the forest. NAKA is supporting Friends of Wildlife in a project providing health care and funding teams to identify suitable sites in two states and three regions. NAKA will also provide some trucks especially modified to transport elephants to release sites and to bring them back to an elephant hospital if intensive care is needed. Training local cadres is crucial, and NAKA will support teams to monitor the released elephants’ progress.
NAKA strongly believes in increased communications and interaction between local and regional experts. We cooperate in organizing meetings, help with PR, host dinners, and more. A big obstacle is that many government agencies and NGOs lack the funds not only to host meetings but often don’t even money to send staff to attend them. Among the meetings NAKA has either sponsored travel for experts or otherwise supported are three ACEWG meetings, a Capacity Building Workshop for Zoo and MTE Veterinarians in Myanmar, an Elephant Nurse Advance Course at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center (Lampang, Thailand), and an Elephant Endotheliotrophic Herpes Virus Workshop in Singapore.
NAKA also happily sends emergency teams to medical cases where existing care is inadequate. Twice NAKA has sent medical teams, including both Thai and Lao veterinarians, to China to provide urgent treatment for baby elephants with life-threatening conditions. Both calves survived.