Thoughts on (so called) conservation of Asian elephants

 

We need to understand that elephant conservation in Asia is entirely different from Africa.

The main threat to African elephants is poaching and to a certain degree habitat loss. In Asia poaching for ivory is currently not a main problem, but there are many other serious Issues. Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) is by far the most common problem in all 13 Range countries in Asia. Other common issues are habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, habitat quality loss and elephant population increase. The other big problem in some Asian range countries is the existence of domesticated elephants.

HEC: 

is very serious with hundreds of humans and in retaliation many elephants killed every year.

Many big NGO’s are trying to solve it on a national or even international basis; even so this helps in getting governments to help with policy changes and support for affected communities, the real work needs to be done by underfunded local NGO’s in collaboration with government and villagers. There is no “one” solution for HEC, every case is different and contrary to general believe, the affected communities are rarely the cause.

It is very important, that  local NGO’s are getting better support from big NGO’s, scientists, governments and donors!

Habitat loss and habitat fragmentation:

Big NGO’s and policy makers should push on national elephant master plans and enforcement of laws, encroachment should be stopped and illegal encroachers must be removed! Corridors connecting fragmented habitats need to be planned, established and protected.

National elephant master plans must be drawn up, involving all stakeholders!

Habitat quality loss:

Habitat depredation has many origins, illegal logging, uncontrolled reforestation and ground water depletion must be controlled and enforced by relevant authorities with the help by scientists.

Local NGO’s and communities in coordination with authorities should engage in large scale habitat improvement.

Elephant population increase:

Actual elephant population monitoring should be started immediately; knowing real population number and comparing them with carrying capacity then then be translated into efficient measures. Habitat improvement and corridors will be solutions to increase capacities. I many Asian countries (India, Thailand, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and peninsular Malaysia) numbers are increasing. Other solutions like birth control must be studied before we reach unsupportable numbers! If these increases lead to massive HEC and very high numbers in human casualties governments will be pressed to start culling to reduce the numbers; this is unacceptable!

Elephant population census must be carried out and carrying capacities should be established!

Domesticated elephants:

There are more than 15.000 domestic elephants in Asia. After recent logging bans, these elephants became obsolete. Of course, they deserve to be taken care, but elephant care is expensive, so means must be found, for them to create some income. Tourism seems to be the best solution, but as this has developed in to big business, misinformation is spread. These businesses are calling themselves conservationists; they are not! As tourists prefer to see “cute” elephant babies, baby elephants are poached in big numbers to be supplied to so called elephant camps and sanctuaries. It is estimated that more than 70% of all young elephants in this camps are poached from the wild! Numbers need to be reduced gradually.

A total breeding ban for domestic elephant must be implemented in all Asian countries now!

Conservation as it is:

Asian elephant conservation is highly inefficient!

NGO’s are jealously competing against each other, they are competing for funding and in many cases, will then subcontract it to others! Nonsense publicity projects are wasting much needed money.

Much needed cooperation and sharing of information is non-existing!

All stakeholders need to work together to make real progress!

Petitions:

A menace; mostly unqualified people picking up some news item use incorrect background information and issue unreasonable demands. Good intentions creating havoc for conservation! In many cases somebody is already taking care of this things, but when the demands arrive everything is stopped, and a general mistrust against NGO’s and other conservation groups is the result!

Armchair perpetrators must stop issuing factually incomplete and/or incorrect petitions!

Social media groups:

More or less the same as petitions! Unqualified people making unqualified comments creating hysteria!

Stop!

Creating awareness:

Creating awareness is not always conservation! Sure, Sir David Attenborough creates awareness and is great conservationist, but the killer of Cecil the lion also created awareness, but he is a killer not a conservationist!

Petitions, elephant camps and social media groups create false awareness using incorrect information!

 

January 8, 2017 written by Andy Merk