AZA News Releases

North American Zoos Support Worldwide Elephant Conservation

Silver Spring, MD – The International Elephant Foundation (IEF) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) today announced support for 19 elephant conservation projects for 2012.

“IEF-supported projects protect elephants from poaching, seek solutions for human-elephant conflict, equip and train community conservationists, increase our knowledge of the treatment and prevention of disease, and educate people,” said IEF Executive Director, Deborah Olson “In 2012, IEF will provide over $225,000 to support elephant conservation around the world, adding to the over 2 million total invested in conserving elephants since its inception in 1998.”

IEF’s elephant conservation and education programs are ongoing both in managed elephant care facilities and in the wild. IEF is a non-profit organization established in 1998 by a group of zoos and other elephant care facilities to enhance and promote elephant conservation around the world.  IEF receives the majority of its funding from AZA-accredited zoos. To date, seventy-five AZA institutions have contributed funds or support to IEF totaling over 1.4 million. 

“African and Asian elephants are relying on us to ensure their future,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “Elephants in North American zoos contribute to studies in welfare, reproduction and behavior which has applications for their wild counterparts and also generate support for the International Elephant Foundation while providing a powerful, up-close connection to animals only seen on T.V.” 

“AZA is proud to support the efforts of the International Elephant Foundation,” said, Jim Maddy. “Elephants in AZA-accredited zoos are wildlife ambassadors who educate the public, create life-long conservationists and raise money to support vital IEF conservation efforts.”

The following elephant conservation projects will receive support from IEF in 2012:


Changing local attitudes and behavior towards elephants in Kerala, India 

Zoo Outreach Organisation Trust has developed a teaching guide on Human-elephant coexistence (HECx) entitled, ”Getting along with elephants” and educational packets for use during programs. This information provided in the human-elephant conflict areas of Kerala will help to create a positive attitude among the people toward the elephant and its conservation.   

Emergence of highly fatal Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) in Asian elephants of South India

This project will promulgate a thorough epidemiological investigation of the EEHV infections in both free ranging and captive Asian Elephants in South India. It will identify and evaluate the extent of emergence of EEHV, risk factors and risk groups involved and will help formulate management strategies for the future conservation of the Asian elephant.

Sumatra Elephant Conservation Response Units, Indonesia

This ongoing IEF project uses once neglected captive elephants and their mahouts for direct field based conservation intervention and protection for all wildlife.

Supporting community-based conservation of Asian elephants in Rakhine Yoma, Myanmar

IEF will support the participation of Chin tribes in the protection of Asian elephants and other globally threatened wildlife in the Rakhine Yoma Elephant Sanctuary (RYES) and the adjacent Taung-nyo Public Protected Forest (TPPF). In a country with no tradition of community participation in protected area management, this is an opportunity to build on success and demonstrate a functioning model of community-based conservation.

A sustainable solution for human elephant conflict in Sri Lanka

Introducing Palmyra bio-fencing as a sustainable, eco-friendly, long-term solution will work to mitigate the impacts of human elephant conflict. This innovative project proposes pilot testing Palmyra bio-fencing technology at three different locations of the country, obtaining the assistance from three key national government agencies and respective local communities.

Publication of the Gajah, the Journal of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group

Gajah shares best practices and builds capacity amongst managers, conservationists, researchers and to those interested in the management and conservation of the Asian elephant, both wild and those in human care.


2012 Waterborne Anti-poaching & surveillance operations on Lake Itezhi Tezhi and Kafue River in Kafue National Park, Zambia 

This project supports Zambia’s Wildlife Authority and the Community Resources Board to undertake anti-poaching and monitoring of Lake Itezhi Tezhi, in order to minimize the poaching threat, thereby securing the northern Buffer Zone of the Ngoma Forest complex for the benefit of wild elephants, as well as other wildlife species.

Mounted horse patrol anti-poaching unit for Mount Kenya, Kenya 

Elephant poaching on Mount Kenya is escalating at an alarming rate. Mount Kenya Trust statistics indicate that more than 100 elephant have been killed in the last two and a half years. The Mount Kenya Trust horse patrol unit will tackle the identified poaching hot spots between the Imenti and Sirimon areas of the mountain.

Program “My Elephant Neighbor,” Burkina-Faso, West Africa 

Exposing children to their elephant neighbors in a positive manner is the most effective way to involve them and their families in elephant conservation. This program offers a unique opportunity to see and learn about the local elephants. It will benefit elephant conservation both in the long- and short-term, as both children and their parents learn about the issues of the neighboring elephant population.

Reduction of human/elephant conflict through beekeeping, Ghana, West Africa 

The best strategy to prevent crop damage is to discourage the elephants from coming out of the forest. It has been shown that elephants will not approach beehives and this can be used as a barrier or fence between the forest and the farm crops. Beekeeping will also be an income generating activity for some of the local farmers as well as helping with pollination both within and outside of the forest.

Capacity building by the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), Kenya

This multi-year partnership supports NRT as it develops the capacity and self-sufficiency of its constituent community conservancies in biodiversity conservation, natural resource management and natural resources-based enterprises. 

Waterways Project, Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF)

This multi-year partnership constructs and equips marine stations that are positively impacting the ability of law enforcement to reverse poaching and to initiate water rescue for the communities that make their livelihood from the resources of the lake.

Disseminating Lessons Learned and Building Capacity through Pachyderm

Pachyderm is an essential vehicle for publishing manuscripts by elephant range State researchers, thereby assisting in developing capacity at the scientific and managerial level.


Developing a test to detect viral infection in elephants 

This study will develop an improved, more sensitive blood test to detect antibodies against multiple EEHV proteins.  The test will provide a much-needed tool to evaluate the prevalence of infection in North American elephants, and determine whether prior infection with one strain of EEHV protects against infection by other strains.

Disease risk analyses for Tuberculosis detection and prevalence in elephants 

Identification of risk factors and assessment of currently available diagnostic methods in U.S. elephants will provide information that can be used for making recommendations to minimize transmission and prevent infection.  Improved interpretation of diagnostic tests, identification of risk factors associated with infection, and assessment of the current infection status of the U.S. elephant population will facilitate decision-making by elephant managers, veterinarians, and regulatory officials regarding movement, treatment, and management of elephants to prevent TB infection. 

Innovative attempts to propagate Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus cell culture

The ability to grow and propagate this virus in the laboratory conditions is critical for the progress of future research of EEHV. Understanding the biology and pathology of this virus and the possibility of generating live attenuated vaccines, requires that  innovative approaches to EEHV research must be a top priority. This study will employ a variety of improved detection methods and alternative approaches, together with stored elephant blood vessel wall cells and virus-containing samples that have already been collected for this purpose.

Validation of the effectiveness of anti-herpesvirus inhibitors for EEHV disease

Only ten out of 70 elephants with confirmed EEHV disease have survived, all after medication treatments that include one of two drugs known to target the lytic replication of certain human herpesviruses. However, the rationale that either drug works against EEHV is purely theoretical and at least twice as many calves that have also been treated similarly did not survive. This project will carry out sophisticated basic research experiments designed to answer which if any of these two drugs are indeed truly capable of stopping EEHV.

Determining Pharmacokinetic Characteristics of the Antivirual Drug Ganciclovir in Asian Elephants

Appropriate dosages and dosing intervals to maintain therapeutic blood levels of ganciclovir in elephants needs to be established in order to guarantee effective treatment and to minimize drug‐associated side effects.

Elephant Edotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) Research

IEF is the primary funder of the National Herpesvirus laboratory at the Smithsonian National Zoo and directs and funds multiple studies aimed at identifying the causes of EEHV.

As a non-profit organization dedicated to elephant conservation, education and research, IEF funds worthy elephant conservation and research projects worldwide. To learn more about IEF or to contribute to elephant conservation efforts, please visit IEF’s website at

About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. To learn more, visit

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