Friday, August 3, 2018

Guest Post: The Elephants Lake Project 🐘

As a moderator with Chimpansee, and back to my blog posts about elephants, here´s something that I would love to share with you and that I´m sure you are going to like:

as you already know, we see a lot of African forest elephants at Chimpandsee...such beautiful videos aroused your interest about elephants and we opened a special discussion board about these majestic animals. So elephants are not only part of my daily routine, but I also use some of my spare time to have my nose buried in elephant projects. And this took me to an amazing untiring international organization called “Vier Pfoten” (Four Paws), entirely devoted to animal welfare, and with offices in many countries all over the globe. I would love to take this Chimpandsee guest post to discuss some of the cool conservation work these guys are doing.

This story starts some years ago as a “wonderful dream” of some very brave animal welfare fighters from Vier Pfoten, and it goes like this:

as you all know, elephants have been used as working machines for ages in Asia, with all the suffering that this involves: calves separated from their moms, chained and brutally trained to obey human commands, exhausting working schedules, and elephants psychologically and physically marked for life. The use of hooks to make them obey has been (still is) very much appreciated by the oozies (oozie is the term for Mahout used in Myanmar) working in direct contact with elephants. 

Photo: Ingo Schmidinger. Oozies with their elephants. 
© FOUR PAWS / Jasmine Duthie. Use of hooks. 
But fortunately, these days are over for the timber industry elephants in Myanmar.

Due to new regulations, the use of elephants for working purposes has been banned by law in Myanmar. This means that most of the timber logging elephants in Myanmar (sadly, still 10% of the working elephant population will still be working) that “belong” to the government are now “retired” and need a safe place to finally live in so much deserved peace.

Here´s where Vier Pfoten International comes into play, with the development of an ambitious project coordinated by Ingo Schmidinger ❤, and where I myself have had the tremendous honor to cooperate with; my passion for elephants is not a secret, and such a great news gave me hope again.

© FOUR PAWS / Jasmine Duthie. Fieldwork, VP Team. 
Photo: Yin Min. Fieldwork, Ingo Schmidinger 

So, VP, this international animal welfare organization, has designed a long-term project called Elephants Lake, in order to provide elephants with the appropriate conditions to ensure their welfare…forever. This project consists of 17.000 hectares of land in the Bago Province of Myanmar. According to some research on habitat size and population, this area could house 276-300 elephants.

© FOUR PAWS / Jasmine Duthie. Project´s site. 
© FOUR PAWS / Jasmine Duthie. Project´s site.

The start up of the project will also involve the employment to the local population, an increase of the tourism, and thus a rise of the local economy, by promoting ecotourism with eco-lodges, the commercialization of eco-paper products from elephant dung, honey production and selling from beehive fencing, training anti-poaching patrols, etc.

The first step of this project is the rescued elephant´s rehabilitation at the Elephants Lake. This place will include (in order of appearance) among others:

· An orphanage: where orphans will be taken and introduced to possible allomothers, that will hopefully form matriarch groups.

· A hospital

· And enclosures that provide permanent homes for those elephants that cannot be released, and temporary homes for those that can be released...

…what?? released???

YES, this is the second step and the most exciting part of the project: the possible release of the elephants into the adjacent North Zar Ma Yi Wildlife Sanctuary where they will no longer “belong” to anyone and will live free back in the wild…isn´t it great? The elephants will not only be released from their chains and taken care of, but also will be released from human´s hands (if possible)!

So, the aim of this project is actually to finally let the elephants be elephants.

The project is still toddling and we are in the most difficult part, but even in the most frustrating and tiring moments, we still keep our hearts focused on the vision of the elephants free from chains, hooks and humans…and that gives us the strength and the passion to keep going 😊

Photo: Ingo Schmidinger 


R. Sukumar,  The Asian Elephant: Ecology and Management, Cambridge University Press, 1992

Chaiyarat et al,  Wild Asian elephant Elephas maximus population in Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand, 2015.

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