Elephant Family

Charity No. 1091671

Elephant Family, founded by the late Asian elephant conservation visionary and travel writer Mark Shand, is dedicated to save Asian elephants and other gravely endangered Asian species from extinction in the wild through the protection of their diminishing habitat. With the help of Love Brand & Co. the charity is securing habitat or ‘elephant corridors’ in India and Asia and resolving on-going human conflict. Here are some of the Elephant Family current conservation projects:

Assam Corridors 

We work in Assam, India, to secure four ‘elephant habitat corridors’. These are vital routes for elephants and other wildlife during times of flood and seasonal feeding needs, and will benefit 1,700-1,800 wild elephants, as well as numerous other species.

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Launched in 2012, this project in Assam is securing four ‘elephant habitat corridors’. These are vital routes for elephants and other wildlife during times of flood and seasonal feeding needs. On completion it will benefit 1,700-1,800 elephants, within a greater cross border population of 9,000 elephants. The elephants’ range here extends across north-eastern India and into Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, and is the largest (albeit fragmented) Asian elephant population in the world. In one of the four corridors, two villages are situated directly in the path of marauding, hungry elephants. The project aims to facilitate the voluntarily re-location of the villagers to newly-built houses and community centres, as well as to farmland outside the wildlife habitat.

The project includes the construction of the Mark Shand Asian Elephant Learning Centre, a lasting legacy that denotes our founder’s commitment to the elephants in Assam and across India. The Discovery Park is a place for tourists and local people to learn about the significance of the wildlife and elephants in Assam and about the Kaziranga National Park itself. The park, a World Heritage Site, has achieved notable conservation success as it protects two thirds of the world’s Indian one-horned rhinos, the highest density of tigers in any protected area in the world, and a significant number of elephants. The Elephant Learning Centre will increase awareness of the plight of wild elephants, and will offer veterinary support to mahouts (elephant handlers) in caring for their working elephants, many of them former logging elephants in Assam, now supporting livelihoods through elephant-backed tourism in the national park.

Elephant Health Programme 

In Sumatra, Indonesia, we are racing against time to save the world’s most endangered wild elephant species – barely 2,000 are left. Our veterinary team and forest patrols are one of their last chances at survival.

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Within the last 15 years the Sumatran elephant population is believed to have decreased by 35%. The Sumatran elephant is the most endangered of all the world’s elephants. With barely more than 2,000 left in the wild, forest clearance has already halved their population within one generation.

Poor land-use planning and the growth of oil palm plantations and smallholder farms have meanwhile brought people and wild elephants into close proximity, leading to conflict when crops get damaged/eaten. A herd of elephants can destroy an entire farm’s crops in a single night and they are often poisoned and shot in retaliation, especially if human life is threatened. Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil in the world (Sumatra is an island state of Indonesia).

Elephant Family has worked in Sumatra for nearly ten years. Helping survival of the critically endangered Sumatran elephant sub-species, our field partner provides professional veterinary care and management support. This ensures the health and welfare of captive and wild elephants across five provinces in Sumatra. Through collaboration with government managers, vets and mahouts, we have promoted the health and better care of 183 captive elephants living in Elephant Conservation Centres (ECCs), and those involved with Elephant Patrol Units (EPUs) across Sumatra. The EPUs work to monitor the national parks for any illegal activity and can also help to fend off wild elephants raiding local crops. The veterinary team stands between elephants and a potentially hostile and unsafe environment.

Elephant Family is proud to support these patrols and the veterinary team, which give wild elephants and other animals a much-needed fighting chance for survival. In a critically endangered population, every Sumatran elephant counts.

Spatial Ecology of the Bornean Elephant

In Borneo, Malaysia, we track elephant movements and successfully use this data to show governments and companies that wild elephants need their habitat despite endless efforts to turn this pristine habitat into plantations for palm oil production.

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In Borneo we are powering the use of radio collars and camera traps to track elephants across three key regions. This vital data is being used to trace elephant movements across impenetrable forest ranges. Most critically, it has provided conclusive evidence to governments and companies that wild elephants need their habitat. It has invigorated the arguments to stop development and protect forests in the face of endless efforts to turn this pristine habitat into plantations for palm oil production.

There are under 2,500 elephants left in all of Borneo, so expanding palm oil plantations are a huge threat to remaining elephant habitats. While the present elephant population of Sabah is stable, the habitat is shrinking and human-elephant conflict is rising. The current numbers are only sufficient to maintain a healthy elephant population if good habitat quality and connections are maintained. As a direct result of Elephant Family’s consistent funding, our partner in Borneo has been able to provide sound scientific data proving that an area of land earmarked for a palm oil plantation was vital for elephant movements in central Sabah. The area was redefined, the plantation has been stopped, and a wildlife corridor under the protection of the wildlife department was established. Since 2008, thirty elephants have been fitted with satellite tracking collars, with many of them being translocated from areas of high human-elephant conflict to forest reserves where they have more space to roam freely.

Elephant Family is also investing in talented early career conservationists. Nurzhafarina (Farina) Othman is a conservation biologist and PhD candidate studying the movement ecology of Bornean elephants across highly fragmented landscapes. By funding Farina, who is from Borneo, we are securing the future of indigenous expertise. Farina’s conservation work has gained local and international recognition and she received a Disney Conservation Heroes Award in 2015.