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Plans for a bridge in a critical wildlife area in Borneo have been scrapped 

21 April 2017

KOTA KINABALU: A controversial plan to build a RM220 million, 350-metre bridge spanning Kinabatangan in Sukau has been scrapped by the state government.

The landmark decision was announced by the Sabah Forestry Department's Chief Conservator of Forests, Datuk Sam Mannan, when speaking at the Southeast Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) dinner in London, yesterday.

The project stoked controversy when environmentalists, including famed English naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, raised concerns over the environmental impact such a bridge would have on wildlife there.

Attenborough said it would threaten one of the last sanctuaries of the Bornean pygmy elephant.

"In making this decision, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman has taken into consideration all the concerns and opinions expressed related to the bridge, including those from Sime Darby, Nestle, scientists and non-governmental groups, and also the opinion of someone who knows the territory better than anyone else – Sir Attenborough," Sam said.

He added that Attenborough's comments “broke the camel's back” and made the Sabah government understand that the issue does not just concern Sabah, but the world.

New DNA system helps combat wild elephant trafficking

7 March 2017

The initiative in Thailand promises to help crack down on smugglers who take elephants from the wild

It is illegal to traffic wild elephants into captivity, but where money is to be made that doesn’t stop people trying. Thailand has a new national DNA database of all captive elephants. It has shown its worth this week by proving two young elephants in a Thai tourist camp often frequented by UK tourists in southern Thailand are not in fact the offspring of captive elephant parents as claimed.

This significant finding proves that the DNA registration system is working and could be the first of many incidents of this nature now that Thailand has bowed down to pressure from NGO Elephant Family and other partners and put this protection system in place.

“With the new DNA registration system properly in place, we can finally start to close these loopholes and crack down on smugglers who are taking elephants from the wild, ” says Ruth Powys, CEO at Elephant Family.

Last October, Thailand introduced a new law for all elephant owners to adopt a DNA Registration System. The system will help better track captive elephants and prevent elephants being smuggled from the wild and disguised as captive elephants, fuelled by the lucrative tourist industry.

To date over 3,440 captive elephants - almost 99% of the animals’ total documented population in Thailand – have already been registered for DNA checks to help verify their identity and origins, with the remainder of captive elephants to be completed by the end of this month.

With less than 50,000 Asian elephants left in the wild today, this crucial milestone will help protect both captive and wild elephants and ensure that the wild population doesn’t continue to be further fragmented. 

China has announced a ban on all ivory trade and processing activities by the end of 2017.

Conservation groups hailed the decision as "historic" and a "game-changer" for the future of elephants.

The move follows a resolution at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in South Africa in October.

China has the biggest ivory market in the world - some estimates suggest 70% of the world's trade ends up there.

The commercial processing and sale of ivory will stop by 31 March, and all registered traders will then be phased out, bringing a full halt to the market by the end of the year.

While the international market in ivory has been closed since 1989, legal domestic markets have continued in many countries around the world.

China had backed the Cites resolution in October, surprising participants with the strength of its support for a ban.

Some delegates said Beijing had wanted an even stronger resolution.

Elephants in Thailand to have DNA registered

5 October 2016

Under new laws, the genetic code of all captive Thai elephants will have to be recorded to help distinguish them from their wild counterparts.

Thailand has just announced a new law for all elephant owners which required them to adopt a DNA Registration System to keep track of all captive elephants. This comes in response to a number of investigations carried out by NGO Elephant Family and mounting pressure from the conservation sector.This important step will ensure that captive-bred elephants can be easily distinguished from their wild counterparts. The news comes during the 17th Conference of the Parties for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in South Africa.

“In order to save our wild elephants, we need to properly monitor the population of captive elephants,”said Adisorn Nuchdamrong, the Deputy Director General of the Department of National Parks in Thailand.

Elephant Family an NGO dedicated to saving the Asian elephant, has been instrumental in exposing the illegal trade which sees wild baby elephants captured and passed as captive-born for the lucrative tourism and entertainment industry. At present, Thailand’s 3,500-4,000 captive elephants are registered by means of a microchip or photo identification which can be easily swapped and forged. This allows room for wild elephants to be smuggled into tourist camps and disguised as captive elephants. Elephant Family will now provide financial and technical assistance for the implementation of the DNA registration system and will be discussing this with other range states.

“We will now start collecting the DNA of all captive elephants through blood samples which we plan to complete within six months,” said Nuchdamrong. “We aim to have all elephant camps adopt the new DNA registration system within one year.”

To date, elephant camps are only required to register their elephants at eight years of age. This coupled with poor registration systems allows for a loophole in the illegal trade in trafficking of wild elephants. Over the next few months, Thailand’s captive elephants are to be registered within 90 days of birth using the DNA registration system.

“A complete DNA register for all Thailand’s captive elephants is a milestone move for both wild and captive elephants across Asia,” said Ruth Powys, CEO of Elephant Family. “What happens next is, however, key: the registration of all captive new born elephants within 90 days of birth. The enforcement of this new law will close a loophole that currently enables wild elephants to be passed off as captive. Elephant Family will now support other range states in following Thailand’s landmark footsteps.”

Elephant Family will be working with TRACE Wildlife Forensic Network to develop a suitable DNA registration system for other range states that allows rapid and robust testing of domestic elephants to prevent illegal trade. “DNA testing is becoming an invaluable tool to aid the prosecution of wildlife crime, or in this case, to ensure legal compliance with the national legislation of Thailand,” said Dr Ross McEwing, Director of the UK based TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network.

Elephant Family & Quintessentially Foundation win Fundraising Event of the Year at the Third Sector Awards for Travels to my Elephant

15 September 2016

Awarded to a fundraising event that used an original or inspiring approach to secure donations

Travels to my Elephant was set up to raise awareness of the plight of the Asian elephant. It also generated funding to mitigate the problems between elephants and villagers in India's north-eastern state of Assam, where elephant habitat is fragmented and many local people live in fear of being attacked as they encroach more and more on the animals’ territory.

Inspired by the book Travels On My Elephant by the conservationist Mark Shand, Travels to my Elephant came to life through a series of five events that took place throughout 2015. It was launched in June by the actress Goldie Hawn and began when 20 rickshaws decorated with elephants took over the streets of London before being auctioned at an event hosted by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

In another event in November that year, 80 people raised at least £10,000 each to participate in a 500-kilometre rickshaw race across India. At the end of the trip they were greeted by Tara, the elephant that featured in Shand’s book.

The event attracted £184,000 in sponsorship from the department store Selfridges and the baby equipment brand Maclaren, with miniature elephant sculptures celebrating the event being sold in Selfridges and other London retailers.

Travels to my Elephant raised more than £2m, surpassing its net target by more than 70 per cent. The funds have safeguarded the lives of 1,700 endangered Asian elephants and 120 people living in Assam, with a further 100 people set to benefit over the coming year. The events had a total media reach of 915 million people, a Facebook reach of 370,000 and more than 100,000 Twitter impressions.

What did the judges say?

Scott Clarkson, deputy director of supporters and communities at Save the Children, said: "What an impressive list of achievements. It sounds like each part of the campaign was a success."

Royal Family joins hands with Elephant Family

15 April 2016

Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to Kaziranga marked the launch of Elephant Parade in India, a public art event that will take place in 2017, the year of India-UK culture. A call to artists from across India is being made to participate in creating a visually stunning herd of painted model elephants, similar to the ones their Royal Highnesses saw during their visit to Kaziranga.

Elephant Family cares for both elephant and human families, funding pioneering solutions such as elephant corridors. Born from the success of its predecessor in London, the Elephant Parade in India will generate vital funds to help secure 100 elephant corridors across India for the endangered Asian elephant who faces risk of displacement through fragmentation of habitat and human disturbances. Crucial sponsorship will also facilitate the voluntary relocation of communities living on elephant corridors to safer areas.

The last London Elephant Parade, which took place from May to June 2010, became London’s biggest public art exhibition with more than 250 brightly painted elephants located across central London. With an audience of 25 million, the campaign raised over £5 million for the endangered Asian elephant.

The 300 painted model elephants on parade across Delhi and Mumbai in 2017 will create a striking spectacle of colour and showcase the nation’s most creative artists and emerging talents; whilst celebrating India’s national heritage animal.

Having supported Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to secure an elephant corridor in Kerala in the past, Elephant Family is currently working with WTI in Assam to help secure the Kalapahar Daigurung corridor through voluntary village relocation. Since 2004, Elephant Family has invested heavily in conservation projects spanning the length and breadth of the country; and will continue to secure corridors for elephants with valued support from its corporate partners, including PWC India.

Ruth Powys, CEO of Elephant Family, said, “We are thrilled their Royal Highnesses were able to join Elephant Family and WTI at Kaziranga Discovery Park in Assam to see first-hand the important animal conservation work that goes on here. The royal visit also marks Elephant Family’s call to India’s creative artists to participate in creating the Elephant Parade 2017.”

Elephant Family and Quintessentially Foundation announce the launch of ‘TRAVELS TO MY ELEPHANT’

26 March 2015

The Elephant Family charity and Quintessentially Foundation today announced the launch of Travels To My Elephant’ – a once-in-a-lifetime rickshaw race taking place in India in November 2015 to help save the Asian elephant from extinction. The venture was officially launched today at Clarence House at an exclusive reception hosted by TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, joint presidents of Elephant Family.

Inspired by Elephant Family’s late founder, the passionate conservationist Mark Shand, whose rescue of an Asian elephant, Tara, is recorded in his best-selling book ‘Travels on my Elephant’, Travels To My Elephant’ will see a fleet of 30 rickshaws race 500km in an epic Indian adventure across Madhya Pradesh to Tara’s home at Kipling Camp.

Journeying through some of the country’s most colourful and awe inspiring countryside, from the erotic sculptures at Khajuraho to the tiger reserves of Bandhavgarh National Park, teams of two from all corners of the globe will take on the unique challenge. Actress Susan Sarandon, models Yasmin and Amber Le Bon and Quintessentially Foundation principal Ben Elliot are just some of the many racers taking part, with each team pledging to raise £10,000 for Elephant Family, supporting its goal of funding a future for the Asian elephant.

To launch ‘Travels To My Elephant’ in the UK, 20 rickshaws will be transformed into extraordinary pieces of mobile art individually designed by a host of international artists, milliners and fashion houses including Diane von Furstenberg, Manish Arora, Carolina Herrara, Philip Colbert and The Rodnik Band and Nicky Haslam. From 1st June, this beautiful collection of rickshaws will grace the streets of London, offering the public a unique chance to join the conservation journey and contribute to the charity campaign by riding the rickshaws in magical tours of the city. With the fine art logistics expert Cadogan Tate providing support throughout the event, the rickshaws will then be auctioned by Sotheby’s at Lancaster House on 30th June.

‘Travels To My Elephant’ is a true modern day adventure and a fitting celebration of the life of Mark Shand, one of the world’s greatest adventurers. The campaign aims to raise a total of £1 million for the Elephant Family charity, and a chance to carry on Mark’s passion and dream of saving the magnificent Asian elephant from extinction.

Today’s launch event at Clarence House was attended by Elephant Family supporters, donors, rickshaw artists and racers, and provided a preview of all 20 artistic rickshaw designs. Guests included the Indian High Commissioner, His Excellency Mr. Ranjan Mathai, artists Rebecca Campbell and Simon Emery, Dame Zandra Rhodes, Nicky Haslam, Bollywood singer Kanika Kapoor, Joanna Lumley, Yasmin and Amber Le Bon.

The rickshaw race begins in India on 1st November 2015.

www.travelstomyelephant.org

For further details on the Travels To My Elephant campaign, imagery and interview requests, please contact Quintessentially & Co: Zafar Rushdie – zafar@quintessentiallyandco.com / +44(0) 207 291 5299 or Clementine Churchward – clementine@quintessentiallyandco.com / +44(0) 207 291 5285

International Action Taken to Tackle the Illegal Trade in Live Asian Elephants

10 July 2014

Yesterday at the CITES* meeting in Geneva, governments from around the world agreed that urgent action must be taken to prevent the illegal trade in live Asian elephants, an issue that could wipe out Myanmar’s last remaining elephants and has been the focus of Elephant Family’s campaigning. It was decided that CITES officials will now investigate how countries involved are tackling this issue, thereby ensuring they to do more.

Ruth Powys, CEO of Elephant Family, said: “This is very welcome news for the endangered Asian elephant. So many CITES discussions concern ivory and what is happening to the African elephant, and the rarer Asian elephant often gets overlooked; but not now. Elephant Family has been leading the charge to put an end to the illegal trade in live Asian elephants that are being ripped from the forests; and now we are one step closer.”

Although illegal, the capture of wild elephants continues, and these days calves and young females in particular are traded for use in the ever-growing tourist and entertainment industries in Asia. Several family members may be killed when capturing one calf. It is also thought that two out of every three elephants taken from the wild will die from injury or stress in halfway camps during the brutal ‘domestication’ process. Not only is this practice abhorrent, but information already available suggests that it is a significant threat to remaining wild populations of Asian elephants.

There are reports of this trade occurring across much of the Asian elephants’ range, and the trade between Myanmar and Thailand is a particular cause for concern. Earlier this week, An Assessment of the Live Elephant Trade in Thailand was released by TRAFFIC, the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network. This report was prepared on behalf of Elephant Family, an organisation dedicated to the conservation of Asian elephants, and provides details of between 79 and 81 wild elephants illegally captured in the wild for sale into the tourist industry in Thailand between April 2011 and March 2013. Of 53 cases for which the origin of the elephants is known, 92% were captured in Myanmar. These reports have since been confirmed by Myanmar government, which has pointed out that unrest in their country has been exploited by smugglers.

This latest progress under the framework of CITES builds on that made last year at its conference in Bangkok, when the issue was first added to the key resolution on “Trade in Elephant Specimens”, which governs international efforts to protect both Asian and African elephants. This had previously focussed almost exclusively on efforts to overcome the illegal trade in ivory and how it is affecting African elephants.

China initially opposed the request for this issue to be investigated further, arguing that it only concerns Thailand and Myanmar, and that they should resolve it between them. However, there are numerous reports of other States’ involvement in the trade – including China – and the request was upheld. The measures being called for – including the early registration of captive-born elephants, backed up by a robust DNA database – would not only help to curb the international illegal trade in live elephants, but would also protect Asian elephants where illegal domestic trade is a problem.

ENDS

For further information, please contact:

Alejandra De La Puente, Campaigns Manager, Elephant Family, alejandra@elephant-family.org

Tel +44 20 7251 5099, Mob +44 7739 900758. 17-18 Hayward's Place, London, UK EC1R 0EQ

Website: www.elephant-family.org

About Elephant Family

Elephant Family was set up to halt the massive decline in numbers of the endangered Asian elephant. In the past 100 years it is estimated the world population of Asian elephants has declined by up to 90%, down to a population of 40,000-50,000. With a corresponding loss of up to 95% of their available habitat over the same period, people and elephants have been forced into the same areas, creating intense conflict between them. Elephant Family are working on the ground with local communities, finding solutions for both wildlife and people. Working where it matters most, tackling the greatest threats to Asian elephants from loss of habitat, the brutality of poaching, and illegal capture from the wild. The Asian elephant is a flagship species and other extraordinary wildlife flourishes in its habitat, including tigers, orangutans and rhinos.

* CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The 65th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee is taking place in Geneva this week.

 

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