Once common throughout the Asian continent, there are now thought to be as few as 34,000 Asian Elephants in the wild. The population has been reduced by over 75 per cent in the last 70 years. The fact that about 20 per cent of the Earth’s population lives in and around the habitats of these elephants, explains the decline.
Asian Elephants face three main threats:
- habitat loss
- human-elephant conflict
As the habitat of the elephants is cleared for development and logging, they are forced to look for alternative food sources, often in the fields of local farmers.
Taronga Zoo is a driving force behind an Asian Elephant program that assists a number of Asian governments and non-governmental organisations in their efforts to combat these problems. We have provided direct support for field conservation initiatives and expertise on environmental education, wildlife health, facility design and management of elephant populations in Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
A conservation breeding program for the Australasian region, driven by Taronga’s experts and partner zoos, is a vital part of the international effort towards elephant management. This regional conservation breeding program is designed to build a self-sustaining population of Asian Elephants in Australia, to learn more about caring for elephants, to ensure a genetically strong and healthy herd and ultimately to generate funds and other resources for conservation in the wild. This requires the commitment and hard work of the major zoos in Australia and New Zealand.
The success of this program at Taronga is demonstrated by the births of the first Asian Elephant in Australia, Luk Chai, in 2009 and the more recent births of Pathi Harn and female Tukta.