Project One: The collection and analysis of the oral histories of elephant mahouts  from across South East Asia

Context: This is the first time that such a project has ever been attempted. Typically an elephant and a mahout are paired together at a young age and spend much of their lives together. Who better then to help to make sense and provide valuable insight into aspects of elephant life? Aspects that might be able to be turned into new interventions to save the species. The tremendous body of elephant related knowledge of the mahouts has never been captured and this project seeks to do just that.

The project is being undertaken in 4 stages:

  • The 1st is the collection and analysis of the stories and narrative from the elephant mahouts.
  • The 2nd will be the analysis of the material with the assistance of Cognitive Edge who are based in Singapore with their Sensemaker software.
  • The 3rd stage will involve pulling together key stakeholders in South East Asia to work with the insights gained, add their own and then jointly design interventions they feel will impact upon the elephant’s plight.
  • The final stage will involve the implementation of these interventions.

AWFE is now currently in stage 1 collecting the narrative from the mahouts.

project 2  the Reduction of Human Elephant Conflict via sound deterrent – Sri Lanka

Context: The spread of human activity has diminished the elephant’s habitat and they how often need to venture into human population areas in search of new food sources. Village crops are therefore a very attractive option to them. Unfortunately when an elephant decides to raid your crop there is little that can be done short of killing it and trying not to be killed yourself in the process. In Sri Lanka alone last year 250 Elephants and 160 people were killed during this Human Elephant Conflict (HEC.)

The situation is dramatically heightened in that in some countries the elephant is viewed as a God Ganesha and a village can be traumatised every time it is forced to kill an elephant to save itself from starvation.

Building barriers between the elephant and the crops is highly impractical because elephants tend not to let anything get between them and food and to build something strong enough and extensive enough is economically impossible.

AFWE have now undertaken successful proof of concept experiments in Sri Lanka and have managed to deter elephants from food sources with invisible barriers at little or no cost. These barriers take the form of sound, and to date the sounds of Sri Lankan Hornets and the vocalisations of matriarchal female elephants have been successful. If this experiments can be replicated and put into place where villages interface with elephants, both human and elephants lives will be saved.

This is a project undertaken in 3 stages:

  • Stage 1: Proof of concept experimentation in Sri Lanka.
  • Stage 2: Turning these experiments into structured, larger scale scientific experiments.
  • Stage 3: Contingent upon the success of stage 2, a design and intervention process in which the methods will be made available to villages.

AFWE has now completed stage 1 and will work with universities in Sri Lanka to develop Stage 2.

Project 3  Mass narrative capture from children around all things elephant – Thailand

This project which is currently being scoped in conjunction with Thailand’s Population & Community Development Association (PDA). Like project 1, it will involve the initial mass capture of narrative, this time  from children from across Thailand. This project will be undertaken with a view to:

  • Gain insights into their views around the future of elephants so their thoughts and active participation can be a key part of ongoing conservation work.
  • Aid in raising the collective awareness of the importance of elephants in the Thai culture and their current plight.
  • Gaining insights to be better able to design conservation related projects that will have an impact on saving the Asian Elephant.
  • Engaging all of the relevant stakeholders in co-designing interventions to enable people to live with and support the Asian elephant into the future.
  • This project like project 1 is being designed around the concept of using the distributed knowledge of those who live with the elephants and know them the best, to design an improved future with elephants that does not involve the loss of the species.

Project 4  Domestic Elephant Breeding Programme – Viet Nam

Context: It is estimated that Viet Nam have something less than 120 elephants extant. This is a combined total of those domesticated and those in the wild. There has not been an elephant birth in captivity in Viet Nam for 30 years.  There has been a corresponding loss of knowledge on how to breed elephants over this period.

AFWE has now commenced a simple instructional process with elephant owners in Viet Nam providing guidelines on creating the environment for breeding and insights into the biological requirements for the same. This project is ongoing and is incorporated into all activities involving elephant owners.

Project 5  Elephant Dung Paper – Viet Nam

Context: Many areas of South East Asia utilise elephant dung to make paper. However there are parts of South East Asia that do not do so. A single elephant can produce up to 50kg of dung per day so what better than to be able to recycle that product into tourist dollars that will aid the local communities in supporting not only themselves but their elephants?

This too is an ongoing project and will be incorporated into activites across Sth East Asia wherever we engage with communities who are not making the paper now.

project 6  Elephant paintings – Thailand

AFWE are currently exploring the possibly of partnering with groups who specialise in assisting elephants to paint on canvas. We hope to do so with a view to offering the paintings  as merchandise as a means of supporting those groups at a local level and fundraising for elephant conservation projects.


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