In Sumatra, elephants and people often come into conflict when elephants wander into human settlements. These elephants are often relocated to a Sumatran Elephant Conservation Center. Support from the Zoo through the International Elephant Foundation provides supplies and training to ensure that the elephants are cared for properly.
Support is also provided for Conservation Response Units (CRU) whereby captive elephants, carrying their mahouts and forest rangers, are trained to patrol the forest to deter crime, monitor wildlife, herd wild elephants away from human settlements and conduct community outreach.
Through Asian Elephant Support, the Zoo assists those who care for and conserve elephants in Asian range countries.
Obtaining reliable estimates of elephant population numbers and distribution in the wild is difficult. The Zoo supports Working Dogs for Conservation in a project to investigate the training and use of scat detection dogs to search for and find elephant dung in Myanmar as a way to monitor elephant populations.
Elephants are important conservation ambassadors for their species and ecosystems. Experiencing elephants in zoos creates an emotional connection that can inspire people to help protect them. The Zoo participates in the Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP) through which elephant care facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) work in partnership to enhance the long-range plan for elephant care, management, conservation and research. AZA institutions ensure that each elephant has superior care that meets the needs of their social, behavioral, psychological and physical senses.
Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) is an elephant-specific viral disease that targets young elephants. The Zoo participates in a multi-institutional research project conducted by the National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo with the goal of finding a cure and creating a vaccine for EEHV.
The cryopreservation of semen for use with artificial insemination (AI) has the potential to become a valuable tool in the management of Asian elephant populations. Elephant semen has proven difficult to cryopreserve, especially that of Asian elephants. Scientists at the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) work with partners on developing a methodology for cryopreserving Asian elephant semen using simple field-friendly equipment.