Asian elephant symposia at ATBC 2018

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Using GPS collars to study wild elephants’ movement (photo credit: Wong Ee Phin/MEME)

The 55th Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) will be held in Kuching, Sarawak from the 1st to 5th July 2019. This is one of several international conferences taking place in Malaysia, attracting researchers from all over the world, that we (biodiversity and conservation researchers in Malaysia) should take the chance to participate.

Realising that ATBC 2018 presents a good opportunity for us to gather elephant researchers in the region to share knowledge, Dr. Nurzhafarina Othman (from Project Seratu Atai) and I (from Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants, MEME) decided to take up the challenge to organise a symposium for Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). Happy to say that our proposal has been accepted and the theme of the symposium is:  “Moving towards coexistence-reconciling elephant conservation and humans’ social dimension”.

Asian elephants, the largest terrestrial animal in Asia, are being threatened by the lack of habitat and also human-elephant conflict throughout its range. Besides the lack of knowledge on elephant population and behaviour, there is also a big gap on understanding local communities and their sentiments, and how to engage with them successfully on elephant conservation. Often the need of the community and elephant conservation are placed at opposing ends, when there could be a middle path that allows coexistence.

The objective of this symposium is to examine the human-elephant relationship from both angles (i.e. human social dimension and elephant behaviour) to promote deeper insights into human-elephant conflict and mitigation impact. Our speakers will look at the intricate relationship between human and elephants, emphasising on what it takes to engage with local communities and live in coexistence with elephants, and share new findings on elephant-human relationships. Instead of managing elephants as pest and problem animals, we should collectively start looking into conservation psychology and see how we can manage people to reduce the conflict.

There will be a diversity of speakers at this symposium including key players in the field of Asian elephant conservation, Ph.D.s and early career researchers. Confirmed speakers include Dr. Alexandra Zimmerman (Chester Zoo) who is the head of IUCN Human Wildlife Conflict Task Force, and Ananda Kumar (Nature Conservation Foundation) who won the esteemed Whitley Awards for nature conservation with the elephant SMS project at Annamalai Hills, southern India.

If you are interested to attend the ATBC 2018, the deadline for early bird registration and abstract submission 31st of March 2018 (note that for symposium abstract, the deadline is 15th March). To find out more about ATBC 2018, visit their website at http://atbc2018.org/. For information on the Asian elephant symposium, feel free to contact the organisers at eephin@gmail.com and nurzhafarina@gmail.com.

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Wild elephants at Kenyir, Terengganu (Photo credit: Wong Ee Phin/ MEME)

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Wild mango seedlings growing from seeds defecated by Asian elephants (Photo credit: Wong Ee Phin/MEME)

 

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