February 1st-4th, 2016, Asian Elephant Support’s president, Linda Reifschneider, attended the Regional Asian Elephant and Tiger Veterinary Workshop at Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Pookode, Wayanad, Kerala, India. This event was hosted by the Centre for Wildlife Studies, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, in collaboration with Parambikulam Tiger Conservation Foundation, Forest and Wildlife Department, Government of Kerala, and Asian Elephant Support. The workshop is supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Asian Elephant Conservation Fund.
Veterinary expertise is crucial to conservation efforts, and this workshop provided the opportunity to share experiences regionally, provide practical training, build local and regional capacity in elephant and tiger veterinary care, and enhance veterinary expertise needed for effective conservation.
The workshop looked at wildlife health from the ecosystem perspective and afforded the opportunity to discuss topics such as disease spillover from humans and/or livestock to wildlife, emerging diseases and/or disease prevalence, as well as reducing stressors in the environment.
In addition to meeting and hearing from some experienced elephant veterinarians previously unknown to AES, it was also very interesting to listen to those veterinarians working with tigers in range countries. This majestic creature is now facing yet another challenge, as habitat loss brings domestic canines into proximity, offering up the very real threats of distemper and rabies.
Dr. Arun Zachariah, one of the veterinarians in India AES has funded, co-chaired this event with AES consultant Heidi Riddle. In addition, Dr. Zachariah presented on emerging diseases in Asian elephants, as well as post-mortem techniques in Asian elephants and tigers.
Dr. Christopher Stremme presented on the work he is doing in Sumatra (work AES continues to help fund) and also participated with Dr. Dennis Schmitt in a demonstration of ultra-sonography in Asian elephants. Dr. Khajohnpat Boonprasert (“Dr. Yeaw”), who has helped us help wildlife department veterinarians in Vietnam, recounted the work being done at The Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, Thailand. And Dr. Zaw Min Oo, who AES has worked with in Myanmar, also presented.
Dr. Stremme performing an ultrasound
Dr. Meenakshi Nagendran, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, discussed the global population status and conservation of programs for both Asian elephants and tigers and Sri Ajay Desai, IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group, discussed human/wildlife conflict relative to Asian elephants and tigers as well as the ecology and evolution of Asian elephants.
The papers session ended with an evening showcasing amazing demonstrations of sand art, followed by a traditional fire dance.
The workshop ended with a planned field visit to the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, which has wild tigers, elephants, and other wildlife. Dr. N. Kalaivanan led the field visit to the Mudumalai elephant camp, sharing camp management protocols with workshop participants from outside the area, as well as introducing us to camp staff and some of the camp elephants. Dr. Kalaivanan also gave a presentation during the workshop on the chemical immobilization and translocation of Asian elephants.
Learning…..sharing…..networking….. It is efforts such as this that grow long past ‘the event’. Having not only another email address, but knowing the face and the expertise of that new contact to share ideas with and ask questions of – this is what helps move the care and conservation of Asian elephants (and tigers!) forward. Your support well invested and for which we thank you most sincerely!