Elephant Specialists Alliance International (ESAI) Launches Website
Elephant Specialists Alliance International (ESAI), of which EAI Founder/CEO Carol Buckley is a founding member, is a global alliance of elephant specialists who represent a range of disciplines including natural science, conservation, behavior, psychology, veterinary medicine, animal welfare, academia, and animal care and management.

ESAI strives to provide the best possible fact-based information and scientific evidence to protect wild elephants from capture and export to other countries, and to end the exploitation of elephants in captivity.

By developing a “go to” website as a source for fact-based information and scientific evidence relating to elephant health and welfare, ESAI hopes to increase public awareness of the intrinsic value and biological/psychological requirements of elephants.
Direct Aid Nepal  
Last month, we responded to a request from Direct Aid Nepal (DAN) to provide welfare education and foot trimming workshops for their mahouts. DAN’s philosophy focuses on caring for elephants in a kind and compassionate manner. The chain-free life they provide for 8 elephants retired from the ride industry in Nepal, is a first of its kind.

Improving elephant welfare in Asia is a continuous effort. Ancient beliefs and long held management traditions must be overcome. This takes time, skilled educators, and the will of the mahouts to learn new ways of caring for elephants.
During our stay in Nepal, DAN was kind enough to underwrite a portion of the housing cost which reduced the overhead for providing our services. The mahouts received an entry level course in basic elephant biology and psychology to help them understand the principles of positive reinforcement training. Next, they received tutorials for foot care which included: (1) identifying foot problems, (2) trimming techniques to alleviate problems, and (3) a hands-on opportunity to develop foot trimming skills. The results continue to be encouraging with all eight 8 elephants and 15 mahouts learning positive reinforcement target training.
We are grateful for DAN’s interest in providing their mahouts with continued education to ensure their elephants experience a life with kind and compassionate training and care.
Creating Sustainable Programs
For a program to be accepted, implemented and ultimately viable, it is essential to clearly understand the culture and practices of the areas where we work. We have learned the key to sustainability is an understanding of local customs and a close affiliation with well-respected and trusted members of the society. If lasting change is the objective, then we cannot force our views on those who did not invite our perspective.

Respect for local culture does not mean acceptance. It means that by understanding another’s way of life, a relationship can develop. This allows for shared information and different perspectives, which can lead to acceptance and new ways of thinking.

EAI provides Positive Reinforcement Target Training and foot trimming in Asia. Neither are the norm, and both are initially viewed with a degree of skepticism. But over the years, as we build our interpersonal relationships and prove these programs benefit the elephants and mahouts, they are accepted.
But in our physical absence, sustainability can be challenging. The lack of hands-on continuing education can result in a relapse and a return to previous practices. Anushka, a veterinary student recently at Direct Aid Nepal (DAN), and Raju, our longtime EAI project manager and supervisor at DAN, found a solution. To help sustain our projects in Nepal, we use video conferencing, making sure our programs evolve seamlessly. Mahouts share questions and we observe and provide instruction for positive reinforcement training and foot trimming remotely via Zoom. This allows for direct assistance and continued education from our founder. Proper guidance ensures the mahouts develop sound skills in the management of their elephants with positive reinforcement.

Since training treats are essential for using positive reinforcement, EAI continues to provide these daily food items to DAN. Your $10 donation keeps the treats flowing for one day. Donate now to help us continue this sustainable, positive change.
Watch as Carol conducts remote target training instruction. Click the image to watch.
We are grateful to Anushka, Raju, the mahouts, the elephants, and to DAN for allowing these programs to thrive. Sustainability is achieved through collaboration, cooperation and the benefit of today’s technology.
Another COVID-19 Lockdown
Three days after Carol returned from our work in Nepal, the country was ordered into another lockdown since the COVID-19 infection rate was on the rise in Kathmandu (vaccinations are still not widely available) and the situation in India had turned dire.

In Nepal, there are just eight doctors for every 10,000 people. The United States has more than three times that number, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The India/Nepal border is porous. Residents are not required to have a visa to cross the border. Many in Nepal are blaming the skyrocketing cases on a surge of Nepalese workers returning to the country from India, after lockdowns there left them with no work or income.

We are in constant communication with our friends and colleagues in Nepal, holding them in our thoughts, hoping the threat will pass quickly and they and their families remain safe and healthy.
Illegal Trade in Elephants
 
Nepal has experienced an increase in the illegal trade in captive-held elephants being moved from Chitwan across the border into India. Although both countries have laws aimed to prevent this type of smuggling, neither have taken action to stop it. READ the article.
As always, we greatly appreciate your interest, commitment and help. You make our work for elephants possible. Thank you!
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