News & Calendar of Events:

Asian Elephant Specialist Group-2018 Meeting :

The 9th Meeting of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) was held at the Avani Riverside Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand from April 25 to 27, 2018. Discussions on priorities and strategies for Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) conservation took center stage during the three-day meeting, which was attended by about 131 people including 55 AsESG members, 13 Government officials from all Asian elephant range countries, 18 potential AsESG members and 45 invitees from across the globe. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), Government of Thailand provided the local support to organize the meeting.

Addressing the members, the Hon’ble Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Kingdom of Thailand General Surasak Karnjanarat said that the meeting provides a good opportunity for experts on Asian Elephants to look at various aspects of the wild and captive populations and to provide technical support to governments and others on long-term conservation of Asian Elephants. Thailand has developed the Twenty Years National Master Plan for the Conservation of Elephants to address best practices for the sustainable conservation of wild and captive elephants.

Welcoming the guests, the Deputy Regional Director of IUCN Asia, Dr T. P. Singh, informed that the uniqueness and value of IUCN Species Survival Commission and its Specialist Group like the Asian Elephant Specialist Group embodies the spirit of IUCN’s ‘One Programme Approach’. Through this approach IUCN will continue to play its convening role and bring together Governments, Civil Society, Research organisations, Universities and other stakeholders to work together to assist with addressing emerging transboundary conservation challenges in the long term conservation and management of Asian Elephants. Chairing the meeting, Mr Vivek Menon, Chair AsESG spoke about the importance of the AsESG to save the flagship species. He said “it is greatly heartening to see the assemblage of such skill and passion among the members of the AsESG. As a group of scientists and experts, it is our duty to use these attributes to ensure the survival of the Asian elephants for generations to come.”

At the meeting, the chair presented on the work done by the Group since the last meeting in Guwahati and the work plan till 2020. The Status of elephants in all 13 range countries was presented by the Range Country officials. The outcome of all the 12 Working Groups formed by the Chair was also presented by the Working Group conveners and the final outcome documents are expected by early 2019 except on HEC. The Group also discussed on the need to have more Working Groups to address the other aspects of elephant conservation and the challenges faced.

The issue of the influx of Rohingya refugees on elephant habitat in Bangladesh and the crisis that has gripped the world both from a humanitarian point of view as well as ecological point of view were also presented by the IUCN Bangladesh Country Head. They are investigating the impact of the refugee on wildlife habitat and how to minimize the resultant increase of HEC in the region. The Chair has also formed the AsESG Working Group to prepare plan to address the issue.

Other issues that were discussed during the meeting include - DNA based registration of captive elephants, research and progress for managing Elephant endotheliotropic Herpes virus (EEHV), impact of linear infrastructures on elephant habitat and mitigation approaches, illegal trade of live elephant and body parts, especially elephant skin trade in Myanmar.

Field Visit

The meeting was followed by two optional post conference field tour to Kui Buri National Park and Khao Sam Roi Yod marine National Park on 28 th and 29 th April 2018

AsESG Working Groups

Working groups have been formed to look at following aspects of elephant conservation and the plans/ guidelines/ protocols are expected soon

a) Sabah Elephant Conservation Action Plan Working Group

b) Working Group to arrest the decline of the elephant population of Vietnam

c)  Sumatra Elephant Conservation Action Plan Working Group

d) Working Group for developing guidelines for rehabilitation of captive elephants in the wild as a possible restocking option

e) Working Group on management and care of captive elephant in musth

f) Working Group to develop guidelines for the welfare and use of elephants in Tourism

g) Working Group for developing guidelines for creating artificial water holes in elephant habitats

h) Human Elephant Conflict Guidelines Working Group

i) Working group for mapping the distribution of Asian elephants in Range states

j) Working group on involving AsESG members to strengthen MIKE

h) Working Group on AsESG Communications

i) Working Group on AsESG Membership

New Working Groups

As an outcome of the 9 th AsESG meeting in Bangkok, three more Working Groups have been formed. These include

a) SWorking Group to manage the elephant habitats affected by the settlement of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

b) Working Group to assist in developing the National Action Plan for elephant conservation in Bhutan

c) Working Group on emerging diseases affecting Asia elephants

Working group field visit to Rohingya sites in Cox Bazar, Bangladesh :

The working group for developing the plan to manage the elephant habitats affected by settlement of Rohingya refugees in Cox bazar, Bangladesh and minimize the human elephant conflict had its field visit and meeting from 29th October to 2nd November 2018 facilitated by IUCN Bangladesh and Bangladesh Forest Department. Currently about 921,000 Rohingya refugees reside in 27 camps in Cox bazar occupying about 6000 acres of forest area cleared for settlement. About 35-40 elephants are trapped on the western side of the camp in degraded secondary forests and 13 cases of human death due to elephants reported between September 2017 and October 2018 by elephants in and around the camp area. To prevent elephants entering the camp and alert people, IUCN Bangladesh has set up 45 Elephant Response team (ERTs) with a total of 534 members (used on rotation basis) and 89 watch towers all along the boundaries of the Camps based on survey of conflict and elephant entry points. The Working Group is working on the draft plan.

Working group meeting for mapping the distribution of Asian Elephants :

Based on the feedback from members at the Bangkok meeting in April 2018, the working group members met again at Yangon, Myanmar from 22 - 24 January 2019 to discuss the methodology and plans to map the distribution of elephants in Asia. The group intends to come up with the map by December 2019 and also develop an easy to use manual for range country managers that can help them adopt appropriate methods to estimate the distribution and population size of elephants. The meeting was attended by Dr A Christy Williams, Dr Varun Goswami, Dr A Anand Kumar, Dr Shermin de Silva, Dr N Baskaran, Dr Sandeep Kr Tiwari, Dr K Yoganand, Mr Paing Soe and Mr Sateesh Venkatesh.

Meeting for developing Lao PDR National Elephant conservation Action plan :

AsESG Program Manager had a meeting with the Director General and other senior officials of the Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Wildlife and Aquatic Management Division, Lao PDR on 28th January 2019 and offered the assistance of AsESG experts for the preparation of Lao PDR National Elephant conservation Action plan. Appreciating the initiatives and assistance of AsESG, the DG has agreed to prepare the Lao PDR National Elephant conservation Action plan in 2019 in collaboration with AsESG and conservation organization working in Lao PDR. Our members from Lao PDR-Mr Khamkhoun Khounboline and Dr K Yoganand facilitated the meeting. A working Group will be constituted to prepare the plan.

Working Group meeting for developing Bhutan National Elephant Conservation Action plan :

The Working Group for drafting the Bhutan National Elephant Conservation Action plan had its meeting in Paro, Bhutan on 19th February 2019 to review the draft plan prepared by the Nature Conservation Division, Department of Forests and Park Services, Bhutan based on national consultation held in early 2019. The meeting was attended by Mr Sonam Wangdi, Mr Tandin, Ms Tshering Zam and Mr Letro (Bhutan), Mr Vivek Menon, Dr Anwaruddin Chudhury, Mr S S Bist, Dr Bhaskar Choudhury, Dr Bibhuti Lahakar and Dr Sandeep Kr Tiwari (India). The Working Groups expects to finalise the plan by July- August 2019


The Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) is a global network of specialists concerned with the study, monitoring, management, and conservation of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in its 13 range states