News & Calendar of Events:


Powell, Ohio – The IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC), the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (CZA) have joined forces in a unique partnership to establish a new Center for Species Survival (CSS) in India, focused on Asian elephants.

Currently, there are 17 other CSSs deployed around the world, all of which are housed at leading conservation organizations, and most at zoos and aquariums. CSS partnerships recognize that accredited zoos and aquariums like the Columbus Zoo offer critical expert knowledge and data from decades of caring for endangered species and engaging with visitors to raise awareness. CSS: Asian Elephant is based in the species’ native range in India which holds 60% of the global Asian elephant population. While other CSS programs focus on groups of plants and animals, CSS: Asian Elephant is the first CSS to focus on one species.

Asian elephants, an endangered species of cultural and ecological significance, face numerous threats across their range across 13 countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. To counter these challenges, CSS: Asian Elephant partners are building off their global connections and collaborating with representatives from each of these countries to strategically create a hub for research, conservation planning, public awareness, and capacity-building within the species’ native range.

This groundbreaking initiative aligns with the goals of the IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) and is a significant step towards fulfilling the agreed-upon Range State commitments of the 2022 Kathmandu Declaration for Asian Elephant Conservation and the IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Action Plan.

“CSS: Asian Elephant provides an innovative model for partnerships among conservation organizations in distant regions of the world. We encourage others to consider supporting the work of SSC groups in this way, mobilizing human and financial resources, as well as ex situ and in situ expertise, where they are most needed, directly supporting animals, fungi and plants in their native ranges,” said Jon Paul Rodríguez, Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission, “This also helps us address the biodiversity paradox: the mismatch between the co-occurrence of biological diversity and the human, financial and institutional resources to address its decline. Our deep thanks to Wildlife Trust of India and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for leading the way.”

Key Objectives of the Center for Species Survival for Asian Elephants

The partners, along with government representatives from the 13 Asian elephant range countries, will collaborate to establish and sustain CSS: Asian Elephant. Over the next year, they will work on a shared work plan, sustainability strategy, and stakeholder engagement to achieve key objectives, including:

Resource Hub: CSS Asian Elephant, hosted by WTI, will serve as a collaborative range-wide resource center for Asian elephants. It will facilitate the exchange of scientific knowledge and conservation solutions among stakeholders in range countries.

Capacity Building: The center will conduct in-country capacity-building efforts on priority topics, ranging from census techniques to human-elephant coexistence solutions.

Education and Community Engagement: It will serve as a model for Asian elephant interpretive experiences, offering educational opportunities for tourists, local communities, students, and experts.

Workshops and Training: The CSS will host workshops and training programs, such as capacity building workshops and international collaborative elephant conservation planning sessions.

Emergency Response Fund: The partnership aims to establish a grant fund for emergency human-elephant conflict mitigation across the range countries.

“Asian elephants’ range states have a lot of issues in common, and there is much sharing and learning that can be done. For a voluntary Specialist Group to have the facilities of a Center in a range state providing dedicated staff to help turn range states’ aspirations and declarations into reality is a step in the right direction,” said Vivek Menon, Chair of the IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group, and Founder Trustee and Executive Director of Wildlife Trust of India.

Contributions and Resources

In addition to shared responsibilities and direct collaboration with all stakeholders, each partner offers a unique role in the success of CSS Asian Elephant.

As part of the world’s largest environmental conservation organization, IUCN SSC will support connections between the CSS Asian Elephant team and the wider SSC network, provide training, tools, and regular communication support. They will promote the partnership and its goals across the global conservation community.

WTI will create and host the CSS Asian Elephant team, working on assessment, planning, and action initiatives. They will provide resources, administrative support, and annual reporting on the CSS's activities.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will provide full funding for the CSS for the first 5 years, ensuring the successful launch of the center. The Zoo has also committed to long-term sustainability, offering staff expertise, and engaging in decision-making and activities critical to the center's success.

“The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has a long history of supporting Asian elephant conservation. However, understanding the urgent needs of this iconic and imperiled species, we felt it was vital to significantly increase our conservation commitment and develop an innovative approach to saving this species from extinction. That is why we have committed support for the next 5 years to establish this program,” said Tom Schmid, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

The population of Asian elephants in their native ranges continues to decline rapidly. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, researchers estimate that the species’ habitat has dwindled to just 15 percent of its historic range. CSS Asian Elephant is set to become a beacon of hope for the conservation of this iconic species and a model for collaborative species survival initiatives worldwide. This partnership highlights the shared commitment of these organizations to safeguard the future of Asian elephants and their habitats.

To learn more about this initiative and other Centers, please visit the IUCN SSC’s website. ###

About the IUCN Species Survival Commission

With over 9,500 members in 186 territories, the Species Survival Commission (SSC) is the largest of the seven expert commissions of IUCN and enables it to influence, encourage and assist societies to conserve biodiversity by building knowledge on the status and threats to species, providing advice, developing policies and guidelines, facilitating conservation planning, and catalysing conservation action. Learn more at

About Wildlife Trust of India

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) is a leading Indian nature conservation organisation committed to the service of nature. Its mission is to conserve wildlife and its habitat and to work for the welfare of individual wild animals, in partnership with communities and governments. WTI’s team of dedicated professionals work towards achieving its vision of a secure natural heritage of India, knit holistically together by nine key strategies or Big Ideas.

About the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 600 species worldwide, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium leads by making a positive impact on people, wildlife, and wild places. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Club. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also manages The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a wildlife conservation organization with regional, national and global impact, annually supporting conservation and research projects locally and worldwide to continue the mission of Empowering People. Saving Wildlife.

11th meeting of the IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group held in India

20th March: The 11th meeting of the IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) was organised from 14th to 17th March 2023 in India. The AsESG meeting was held at New Delhi from 14th to 15th March followed by 16th and 17th March at Corbett National Park in Corbett, Uttarakhand, India. The meeting was hosted in collaboration MoEF&CC and Uttarakhand Forest Department. The last two meetings were held in Bankgkok, Thailand and Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. It was decided to host the forthcoming meeting in India which harbours the largest population of Asian elephants. There were partner roundtable meetings, stakeholder consultations, range countries participations, deliberation on critical issues pertaining to elephant conservation, field visits besides providing for logistics and accommodation of AsESG members and ex-officio members during the 11th meeting of the AsESG.

Overall there was participation from 130 members who participated and helped in organising the meeting. The participation included 67 AsESG members, representatives from 11 Asian elephant range countries, 11 conservation partners, special invitees and organisers from MoEF&CC, Uttarakhand FD and Wildlife Trust of India. The Government of India and the Uttarakhand Forest Department collaborated with IUCN SSC AsESG and extended all support in organising the meeting in Delhi and Corbett National Park. In this meeting, there were 57 plenary presentations in total with wide participation from 51 AsESG members actively involved in presenting, chairing and co-chairing the sessions.

The discussions focused on country presentation from all 13 range countries both by ex-officio and AsESG members on status of wild/captive elephant population of the country, main conservation issues and threats and the interventions being made by the range countries to protect elephants. There were presentations from 12 Working Groups on the status of the reports. The three completed WG reports have been finalised and uploaded on the AsESG website. The comments and feedbacks from the AsESG members have been collated for the remaining 9 Working Groups and the drafting of these Reports are now ongoing.

IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group host side event for the conservation of Asian Elephants at CITES CoP19 at Panama City

2nd December 2022: The third Asian elephant range states meeting in collaboration with IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) in April this year concluded with the drafting of the “Kathmandu Declaration for Asian elephant conservation” charting out 9 key priority actions underlined and agreed upon by all range states to attempt to fulfil by 2025. Taking the way forward, IUCN SSC AsESG organised a side event at the CoP 19 of CITES on “Kathmandu Declaration and its implication for conservation of Asian elephants” on 16th November, 2022 at Panama Convention Centre, Panama City. About 100 people participated at the side event.

Mr. Vivek Menon,Chair AsESG introduced the Kathmandu Declaration and the role of IUCN SSC AsESG in assisting the range countries in meeting the priorities outlined in the Declaration.

Dr. Jon Paul Rodriguez, IUCN SSC Chair highlighted the role of IUCN SSC in providing support and leadership in working with Asian elephant range states to address the conservation issues of Asian elephants and taking appropriate steps in meeting targets of the Kathmandu Declaration.

Mr. Azzedine Downes, President IFAW called out for collaboration and synergistic efforts needed to take forward the priorities outlined in Kathmandu Declaration, role of IFAW in working in tandem with countries to conserve both Asian and African elephants and IFAW’s commitment in supporting the IUCN AsESG.

Dr. Maheshwar Dhakal, DG, Govt. of Nepal shared the plans of Govt. of Nepal in taking forward the targets outlined in the Declaration.

Dr. S. P. Yadav, ADG, Govt. of India committed to the involvement of Indian Govt. in working with the Asian elephant range countries for conservation of elephants and on fulfilling the targets outlined in the Declaration.

Ms. Rahmah Illias, Principal Assistant Director, Govt. of Malaysia agreed with the views of India and Nepal in conserving Asian elephants and agreed to work forward to meet the targets of the Declaration.

Ms. Tanya McGregor, MIKE Coordinator, CITES shared the role of MIKE in working in tandem with Asian elephant range countries and how MIKE can synergise its efforts with AsESG to ensure effective conservation measures to protect Asian elephants.

Dr. Benson Okita-Ouma, Chair AfESG and Ms. Rose Mayienda, AfESG reflected on the challenges and advantages that AfESG faced in creation of African elephant database and the African Elephant Conservation Fund.

This event brought together the Asian range countries as well as other stakeholders to an agreement to establish transboundary collaboration, create pan India Asian elephant database, complete national elephant conservation plans and establish an Asian Elephant Conservation Fund.

Vivek Menon elected to the IUCN Governing Council

8th September 2021: At the World Conservation Congress in Marseille, the members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) elected the new governing Council for 2021-25. Mr Vivek Menon was elected as IUCN Regional Councillor for South and East Asia.

Celebrating his election as a Councillor of the IUCN, from the South and East Asian Region, AsESG Chair Vivek Menon said, “I am honoured to serve the IUCN in a governance role and will bring my three decades of conservation and management expertise to ensure that we have a strong and decisive agenda for nature conservation in this critical moment in history and the finances to achieve it. I thank the members who believed in me and will work to strengthen the membership, the commissions and secretariat during my tenure on the council”.

Vivek Menon’s role on the Council adds to his existing role as Deputy Chair of IUCN Species Survival Commission, Chair of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group, member of the Species Survival Commission Steering Committee and Conservation Translocation Specialist Group. Regional Councillors provide input to the Council on the interests, priorities and needs of the IUCN Members in the Regions; they act as IUCN’s ambassadors, working with the President and Director General to advance the interests and Mission of the Union and to promote its services within the Region.

The IUCN Congress is the world’s largest conservation forum where Members vote on conservation, environmental, and sustainable development issues and also elects the Council. The new IUCN Council will move forward to guide the strategic direction of the Union over the next four years.

He also spoke at various forums. At an event organised by IUCN Species Survival commission on Assess-Plan-Act to Reverse the Red within SSC on 5th September, he spoke on the initiatives undertaken by AsESG for the conservation of elephants in Asia and the conservation efforts of Sabah Wildlife Department, local NGOs and conservationists and AsESG members for the conservation of Borneo elephants.

Mr Vivek Menon addressing the Assess-Plan-Act to Reverse the Red within SSC

Obituary: K. Ramkumar (4th August 1978 to 1st June 2021), Conservation Legend

1st June 2021: It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our colleague and wildlife conservationist Dr Kalyansundaram Ramkumar on 1st June 2021 due to Covid-19 at a hospital in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India. He was 43 years of age and leaves behind his wife and two very young children.

While his colleagues are yet to come to terms with this sudden loss, AsESG and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) stands in grief and support with his young family who were waiting for his hospital discharge permissions as he was on the road to recovery.

Ramkumar hails from Thittai village near Sirkazhi in Mayiladuthurai district, Tamil Nadu. He completed his graduation in Zoology from Poompuhar College, Tamil Nadu; Master’s degree in Wildlife Biology from A.V.C. College, Mayiladuthurai and PhD from Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu. Ramkumar was working for the research and conservation on diverse wild species, including Asian elephants and Nilgiri Thar for the past two decades in India. He joined WTI in 2007-08 and added value with his in-depth knowledge on looking at wildlife and connectivity at the landscape level, especially for elephants. Ramkumar was instrumental in mapping the elephant corridors in India and was the co-editor of the publication ‘Right of Passage: Elephant Corridors of India (2nd Edition).

He played a key role in securing the Wayanad corridor over seven years and was also working to secure another corridor in BRT- Sathyamangalam landscape. He has authored several research reports, papers and popular articles. He was also a great mentor and guided many young professionals. His work will remain eternal and will not be forgotten. He joined AsESG in 2017.

Ramkumar was a person of diverse interest. While his colleagues knew him as a dedicated field professional, he was Ram to the ones who worked closest with him. He was a fun loving person- enjoyed music, dance and cooking and his friends remember him as a very caring and affectionate person.

The sudden passing of a person with whom one has worked for more than a decade is not just sad but also a grim reminder of the reality of this pandemic around us. His passing is a great loss to elephant conservation and his passing is deeply mourned by Wildlife Trust of India and the IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group. Rest in Peace, friend.

In Memoriam: Ajay Desai (1958- 20 Nov 2020), Conservation Legend

20th November 2020: It is with great sadness that we announce the death of eminent elephant biologist and wildlife conservationist Ajay Desai in Belgaum last night following a heart attack. He is survived by wife and two children.

Mr Ajay Desai completed his schooling in Belgaum and his post-graduation in Marine biology from Karnataka University. He started his career with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) as a researcher and went on to spend many years focusing on studying elephant herding and track formation across the Indian reserves of Mudumalai TR and Sri Lanka.

Ajay Desai, former Co-Chair IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group was a member of the Steering Committee of India’s Project Elephant (2005 – 2012), member of the Project Elephant Task Force in 2010, member of the Task Force set up by the Karnataka High Court to advise on the Conservation of Elephants, Management of Human – Elephant Conflict from 2011 – 2013 and was currently part of a Supreme Court-constituted committee to study and prepare a report on Sigur elephant corridor, Southern India. Apart from India, he has worked on elephants and other large mammal conservation and on training field officers in Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia. He has also been a consultant for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in several countries, United Nations (UN) / Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), Fauna & Flora International, various state Forest Departments and the Bombay Natural History Society. Till his last day, he worked as consultant for WWF-India. He was also a member of the Karnataka State Wildlife Advisory Board and IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

AsESG members deeply mourn his passing and express their deep and heartfelt condolences to the sorrowing family and joins in their prayers.

The Thirteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP13)

The Thirteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP13) held in Gandhinagar, India from 17th - 22nd February 2020 in a landmark decision accepted the proposal to enlist mainland Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus indicus) in Appendix I of the Convention of Migratory Species.

Attending government representatives of the 130 member parties to CMS COP13 accepted by consensus the proposal by host country India to list the mainland Asian elephant on Appendix I – affording it the highest protection possible.

IUCN Asian Elephant Species Specialist Group (AsESG) assisted the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in drafting this proposal.

Listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the challenges confronting Asian elephant conservation in most elephant range countries are habitat loss and fragmentation, human–elephant conflict, poaching for ivory and other products, such as skin and illegal trade of live elephants. Loss and fragmentation of habitat is perhaps the most important factor impacting elephant populations in most range countries. The spread of human settlements, plantations, industry, farming, mining and linear infrastructures (roads, railway lines, irrigation canals, power lines, pipelines) have squeezed extant elephant populations into ever-decreasing pockets of forests and have blocked traditional migratory routes leading to intense conflicts between people and elephants, causing fatalities on both sides besides damage to human property. More than 600 humans and 450 elephant death reported every year in Asia. In India alone, around 400-450 people lose their lives due to human elephant conflict and around 100 elephants are killed in retaliation to the damage they cause to human life and property.

India also announced its intention to work with other Asian elephant range states to form a regional agreement with collective actions to safeguard the iconic animal. “This listing corrects a historic oversight and gives the Asian Elephants its long deserving protected status. It’s a big win for the Asian Elephants! For the first time, range country governments accepted listing of the Asian Elephant on CMS Appendix-I” emphasized Vivek Menon, Chair of ASESG and Executive Director and CEO, Wildlife Trust of India. While India is home to 60% of Asian elephants, some of these animals regularly cross borders into neighbouring states, such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal. Several of these small transboundary populations are critical if the species is to survive in states beyond India.

Although many Asian countries are not members of CMS, regional agreements with collective actions can include CMS member and non-member states, and the hope is that many Asian elephant range states will now work more closely together to protect this species.

IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group jointly host side events for the conservation of Asian Elephants at CMS CoP13

The IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) along with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Wildlife Institute of India, CMS, IUCN and Wildlife Trust of India organized a side event to discuss on Elephant conservation beyond borders on 18th February 2020. About 90 people attended the Side event. The speakers included

  • Mr Noyal Thomas, IGF and Director Project Elephant, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India spoke on Conservation of elephants across borders- Successes and challenges: Indian experience)
  • Mr Vivek Menon, Chair IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group & Executive Director & CEO Wildlife Trust of India spoke on Transboundary movement of elephants in South Asia.
  • Mr. Raquibul Amin, Country Representative, IUCN Bangladesh & Ms. Andrea Dekrout, Programme Management Officer, CMS Secretariat spoke on Co-existence of elephants and people in Cox’s Bazar District, Bangladesh.
  • Mr Sonam Wangdi, Chief Forestry Officer, Nature Conservation Division, Department of Forests and Park Services, Bhutan spoke on Transboundary conservation through Indo-Bhutan Peace Parks

All the representatives stressed upon the need for intergovernmental collaboration to ensure protection to elephants that move across these landscapes. Mr Noyal Thomas informed on the threats to elephant conservation in India and the initiatives undertaken by India to conserve the species. He informed that India is working with the Government of Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal on transboundary conservation of the species. Mr Vivek Menon, Chair AsESG and Executive Director, WTI hailed the Government of India’s proposal to declare Asian elephant as a migratory species and urged all parties to CMS to support the pledge. He also emphasized on the need of minimizing conflict and securing migratory passages. Mr Raquibul Amin suggested taking lesson from Bangladesh where sudden and massive trans-border movement of displaced human population from Myanmar triggered both humanitarian and environmental crisis including severe human-elephant conflict. Such mass displacement is more likely to happen due to climate change and conflict. Conservation organizations should actively partner with humanitarian sector to plan and build each other capacity to tackle conservation issues during humanitarian operations. Andrea from UNHCR also supported the idea. Mr Sonam Wangdi spoke about transboundary protected areas and Peace Park initiatives by the Government of Bhutan and India that would significantly help in habitat and species conservation.

A second side event on Asian Elephant Conservation: prospects and Challenges was organized on 20th February 2020. This was organized in the India Pavilion by Project Elephant Division, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change along with Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) and the Wildlife Institute of India.

Mr Noyal Thomas, IGF and Director Project Elephant, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India explain the status of elephants and conservation challenges in India and highlighted habitat fragmentation and human-elephant conflict as a major challenge. He outlined the conservation initiatives undertak en by India to conserve elephants and its habitat including securing corridors, habitat management and transboundary cooperation.

Dr Sandeep Kr Tiwari, Program Manager, IUCN SSC AsESG spoke on the global status of Asian Elephants, threats and the role of AsESG in assisting the conservation initiatives by the Range States. Although Habitat loss and fragmentation and increased human-elephant conflict is a major threat across range states, the illegal killing of elephants for ivory and skin trade is another major concern in few South East Asian Range States.

Mr Gobinda Roy, Deputy Chief Conservator of Forest, Bangladesh informed that the influx of Rohingya refugees and their rehabilitation in Bangladesh has created a huge challenge for human and wildlife. About 8000 acres of prime elephant habitat in Cox-bazar has been used to rehabilitate the refugees from Myanmar that includes two key identified elephant corridors. This has severely impacting the habitat and has increased human-elephant conflict. Dr Tharaka, Director DWS, Sri Lanka informed that Sri Lanka has about 6000 elephants and human elephant conflict is a major concern. On an average about 250 elephants and 70-80 human death by elephants reported every year. Cause of elephant mortality are gun-shot injuries, eexplosive device called “hakkapatas”, poisoning and train accident. He also briefed on the conservation initiatives of the DWS.

Mr Matthew Collis, Director International Policy, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) spoke about the importance of having Asian elephants in CMS. Emphasizing the need to facilitate movement, he briefed how IFAW-WTI has been working to identify and secure elephant corridors in India. He also spoke on the need of according legal protection to corridors and also hopes that many Asian elephant range states will now work more closely together to protect this species.

10th meeting of the IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group starts in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

The 10th meeting of the IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) being organised from 4th to 6th December 2019 at Shangri-la Hotel, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia was inaugurated today. The meeting is being organised in partnership with the Sabah Wildlife Department.

The group discussed on threats and challenges impacting the conservation of Asian elephants and the various guidelines and plans being drafted by the Group and Range countries for the conservation and welfare of elephants in wild and in captivity. The inaugural session was addressed by Dato. Abdul Kadir bin Abu Hashim, Director General of Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Peninsular Malaysia. While addressing the members, he expects that the decisions from this meeting are implemented on ground in Sabah. In Malaysia, we are serious about the poaching issue and want to mitigate this problem and increase the population of wildlife. Mr Vivek Menon, Chairperson Asian Elephant Specialist Group presented the report of the Group in last one year, its impact of the species and the threats impacting elephant conservation and management in Asia. Mr Menon informed that he hopes this meeting helps us come up with solutions to make the life of Asian elephants a little better. Mr Augustine Tuuga while addressing the meeting said that they are happy to be chosen as the joint host for this meeting. We hope that during this meeting, we can enhance the conservation action plan and get inputs from the participants towards the challenges we are facing.

The meeting is being attended by over 130 AsESG and Ex-officio members, partner organisations as well as elephant experts from across the globe and local conservationist.

Apart from the various guidelines and plans being produced by the Group, the meeting will also discuss the elephant conservation issues in Sabah and will be organising a dedicated session. The meeting has also provided a forum for the emerging professionals who are not part of AsESG to present their work and also be part of the workshop on various issues and also consult AsESG experts.

AsESG side event at the CITES CoP18 meeting, Geneva on 22nd August 2019 :

The AsESG in partnership with Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare and WWF organized a side event on the Impact of poaching and illegal trade on Asian Elephants at the CITES CoP18 meeting held at Geneva on 22nd August 2019.

Poaching is a major threat to elephants in Asia, although reliable estimates of the number of elephants killed and the quantities of ivory and other body parts collected and traded are scarce. It was traditionally believed that poaching is a relatively minor threat to Asian elephant because some males and all females lack tusks but in reality Asian elephants are poached not only for ivory but for a variety of other products (including meat and skin), and poaching is acknowledged as a threat to the long-term survival of some Asian elephant populations. In recent decades, selective poaching of tuskers for ivory has progressively skewed the sex ratio in several Asian elephant populations. This affects the genetic variation in such populations and may result in interbreeding impacting population. Large-scale hunting of elephants for ivory, bush meat, skin and other products has reduced their populations significantly over a wide area in some countries. The emerging trade of skin in southeast Asia in recent years is a major concern. Although the trade of elephant skin has been going on for over a decade but since 2014, there has been increase in poaching and trade /sales with main source of elephant skin being Myanmar and the products (beads / pendants, skin pieces, powder) are traded in nearby countries in southeast Asia (Elephant Family, 2018 and 2019). The trade could result in indiscriminate killing of elephants of both sexes threating fragile elephant population in the region.

The event was addressed by the following eminent speakers and the discussion moderated by Mr Matthew Collis, Director International Policy, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Issues ranging from poaching and illegal killing of elephants for ivory, elephant skin trade, live elephant trade, enforcement efforts undertaken in different range states as well as the overall illegal wildlife scenario was discussed at the conference. A large number of professionals from various organization, Institutes and Range countries attended the conference.

  1. Mr M S Negi, Addl. Director General of Forest (WL), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India: India’s Initiatives for Preventing Illegal Trade in Elephant Products, especially Ivory
  2. Dato. Abdul Kadir bin Abu Hashim, Director General of Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Peninsular Malaysia: Illegal ivory trade- Malaysian Government’s Strategies and Effort
  3. Mr M.G.C. Sooriyabandara, Director General, Department of Wildlife Conservation Sri Lanka and Head CITES Management Authority: Elephant conservation in Sri Lanka
  4. Mr Justin Gosling, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Consultant: Update on Elephant Poaching and Trafficking in Myanmar
  5. Mr. Suraphong Chaweepak, Director of International Wildlife Trade Permission, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Thailand: The Conservation of Thai Elephants for Sustainable Development
  6. Mr Masayuki Sakamoto, Executive Director, Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund: Japan's domestic ivory market posing a potential threat to Asian elephants
Speakers at AsESG side event- (left to right) Mr Masayuki Sakamoto, Mr. Suraphong Chaweepak, Mr Matthew Collis, Mr Justin Gosling, Dato. Abdul Kadir bin Abu Hashim, Mr M S Negi and Mr M.G.C. Sooriyabandara

Speakers and audience at the AsESG side event

AsESG organised discussion group meeting at the 29th International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB 2019) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 25th July 2019 :

AsESG in partnership with Elephant Family and International Fund for Animal Welfare organized a discussion group meeting at the 29th International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB 2019) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 25th July 2019. The workshop was on “Challenges confronting conservation of Asian Elephants: Securing corridors as a mitigation strategy”. This was organized to identify the successful strategies being followed in Range states to secure corridors as a mean to address negative impact of habitat fragmentation and land-use management so as to learn from each other’s experience and explore diverse mechanism to secure the corridors.

The meeting was presided by Mr Vivek Menon, Chair AsESG and the following speakers spoke at the workshop with audience from across the globe.

  1. Mr Salman Saaban, Director, Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Johar, Malaysia (AsESG member): Policies and strategies for securing corridors in Malaysia
  2. Dr. Isabelle Lackman, Founder Director, HUTAN: Mediating elephant corridors in a mixed forest-agricultural landscape in Malaysian Borneo
  3. Dr Sandeep K Tiwari, Program Manager IUCN AsESG: Strategies for securing elephant corridors in India
  4. Dr. J. Antonio de la Torre & Dr Wong Ee Phin, University of Nottingham Malaysia: Using elephant movements to assess landscape connectivity under Peninsular Malaysia’s Central Forest Spine land use policy
  5. Mr. Krishna Hengaju, IUCN Nepal: Impacts of Linear infrastructure on elephant and tiger including other wildlife and its mitigation measures initiatives in Nepal
  6. Ms. Rachel Crouthers, WWF Cambodia (AsESG member): Increasing connectivity: Challenges of implementation in Cambodia
Dr Sandeep Kr Tiwari addressing the workshop

Ms. Rachel Crouthers addressing the workshop

In Memoriam: Prof Dhritikanta Lahiri Choudhury (1931-2019), Conservation Legend :

March 1, 2019: It is with great sadness that we announce the death of professor and wildlife conservationist Prof D. K. Lahiri Choudhury. Prof Lahiri Choudhury was unwell for several months suffering from age-related problems and passed away on March 1, 2019 at the age of 87. He was born in September 1931 at Kalipur village in Mymensingh district of Bangladesh.

A retired professor of English at Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata (India), he was involved with conservation, management and research on elephants in India for many decades. He was one of the founder member of Asian Elephant Specialist Group and member of the advisory committee of Project Elephant in India in 2004 and many other committees. Prof Lahiri Choudhury has worked extensively in Meghalaya, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and other elephant areas in India surveying the status and distribution of elephants, human-elephant conflict and other elephant conservation issues.

Prof Lahiri-Choudhury was a prolific writer and has authored many books on elephants including the “The Great Indian Elephant” and “A Trunk full of Tales: Seventy years with the Indian elephants”. Prof Lahiri Choudhry received Ananda Puraskar in 2007 for his book in Bengali on elephants (Hatir Boi).

Appreciation for Prof Lahiri Choudhury by Dr A.J.T.Johnsingh

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