Expert to talk about captive elephants

06 May 2013

Erin Ivory, one of the world's leading experts on zoo elephants, will talk about the care of captive elephants at the south and Southeast Asian elephant conference.

Expert to talk about captive elephants  - Imported from Legacy News system

Dr. Piers Locke

Erin Ivory, one of the world’s leading experts on zoo elephants, will talk about the care of captive elephants at the south and Southeast Asian elephant conference on the University of Canterbury campus next week.

Ivory handles elephants at the San Diego Zoo and Franklin Zoo, near Auckland, where elephant keeper Dr Helen Schofield was accidentally killed by the elephant Mila last year.

Conference organiser, UC anthropology lecturer Dr Piers Locke, says Ivory will outline the controversies that have raged for decades concerning the care of captive elephants at the May 7 and 8 conference.

"She will explore the role of animal rights groups, government officials, zoos, sanctuaries, circuses, and private owners.’’

Dr Locke was the first anthropologist to live with elephant handlers in order to explore people’s use of elephants and expert knowledge and the professional practice of their keepers.

He has looked into ways in which captive elephants are involved with ecotourism, protected area management and biodiversity conservation. 

Dr Locke says conflicts between elephants and people due to habitat loss and population pressure is an acute problem, often resulting in mortality for both people and elephants.

"The loss of traditional forms of employment, particularly in logging, has resulted in welfare problems not just for elephants, but also for their handlers. Both of these issues present a challenge for how the two species can share space and live together.

Surendra Varma, of the Indian Institute of Science, will be a key speaker at the two day conference. Varma has conducted extensive surveys of captive elephants in India, in zoos, circuses, forest camps, in private ownership, and at an ancient livestock fair in Bihar where elephants can still be bought and sold.

Dr Locke says Varma has probably interviewed more elephant keepers and owners than anyone alive.

A world-leading Asian elephant ecologist Professor Raman Sukumar will give the keynote address. Professor Sukumar, also from the Indian Institute of Science, will outline the future possibilities for captive and wild elephants.

Anthropologists, ecologists, geographers, political scientists, historians and zoologists from the United Kingdom, the United States, France, India, Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand will attend the conference.

Asia’s elephant population has experienced a 90 percent decline in the past 100 years and a rough calculation suggests that as much as 95 percent of the original habitat has been lost over the same period. As few as 25,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild, scattered among 13 countries.

For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168
kip.brook@canterbury.ac.nz