Ele­phant con­ser­va­tion is up to all of us

Dubbo Photo News - - Dubbo Weekender -

ELE­PHANT con­ser­va­tion might seem like a feat best left to the pro­fes­sion­als, but keep­ers from the Taronga West­ern Plains Zoo are en­cour­ag­ing ev­ery­one to do their bit for the largest liv­ing land mam­mal.

While the zoo con­tin­ues its suc­cess­ful Asian ele­phant breed­ing pro­gram, which has seen two new calves born since it was im­ple­mented, it’s up to the rest of us to stay privy to any il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity which might put the crea­tures in dan­ger.

The zoo’s promotions and pub­lic­ity co­or­di­na­tor, Mandy Turner, said con­ser­va­tion isn’t just about breed­ing, it’s an “ed­u­ca­tion process”.

“It’s about ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about an ele­phant’s plight,” she told Dubbo Photo News.

“If you go over­seas, don’t get your photo taken with an ele­phant and don’t go to a tourist park where they are rid­ing ele­phants be­cause ul­ti­mately, that’s not con­ser­va­tion for an­i­mals.”

Taronga West­ern Plains Zoo has part­nered with the Wildlife Wit­ness App which al­lows peo­ple to re­port il­le­gal an­i­mal ac­tiv­ity.

“If peo­ple see some­thing that they think is a bit odd, like ivory be­ing sold in a jew­ellery store, they can drop a pin and Traf­fic (the par­ent or­gan­i­sa­tion) will in­ves­ti­gate it,” Ms Turner said.

“Even just hav­ing your photo taken with an ele­phant on the street in Thai­land, for ex­am­ple, should be re­ported be­cause they’re just ba­si­cally us­ing that an­i­mal for com­mer­cial gain and it’s not in the an­i­mal’s best wel­fare.”

Poach­ing and de­for­esta­tion has meant there are only 40,000 Asian ele­phants left in the world with eight of them cur­rently calling Taronga West­ern Plains Zoo home.

The youngest, Sabai, is about to turn one, and the el­dest, Burma, who was a for­mer cir­cus ele­phant, re­cently cel­e­brat­ing his 60th birth­day. And the herd is set to grow.

“Hope­fully, as time goes on, we will wel­come more lit­tle calves,” Ms Turner said.

I am a full-time Ele­phant Keeper

at Taronga West­ern Plains Zoo (TWPZ)

I started vol­un­teer­ing in 2016 on the ele­phant team, and got my first job as a ca­sual at the be­gin­ning of 2017. I re­ceived my per­ma­nent po­si­tion halfway through 2018 on ele­phants.

Every day is dif­fer­ent, from dif­fer­ent tasks need­ing to be com­pleted to work­ing with dif­fer­ent team mem­bers or with dif­fer­ent ele­phants. Most days right now con­sist of me build­ing re­la­tion­ships with the ele­phants and learn­ing train­ing and conditioni­ng tech­niques. My cur­rent fo­cus is bath rou­tines and be­hav­iours with the herd fe­males, Porn­tip and Thong Dee

My favourite thing about work­ing at Taronga West­ern Plains Zoo is get­ting to know the ele­phants. As I get more com­fort­able be­ing around the ele­phants, they get to see my per­son­al­ity come through each day and they slowly show me more of their in­di­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties too – it’s a side of the ele­phants that you don’t get to see when you aren’t around them every day.

I started my jour­ney in 2016

when I stud­ied a Cer­tifi­cate III in cap­tive an­i­mals at Taronga West­ern Plains Zoo. I didn’t have a real in­ter­est in ele­phants un­til I did my work place­ment week and had a great time with the team. That’s when I started vol­un­teer­ing monthly on the ele­phants sec­tion, travelling up from Syd­ney.

I have de­vel­oped a fond­ness for ele­phants, but I also have a lot of in­ter­est in Fal­low Deer and Tas­ma­nian Dev­ils – I have had the op­por­tu­nity to work with both of these species as well.

Out­side of work, I like to keep as ac­tive as I can. I love to play soccer and go to the gym.

Taronga strives to ed­u­cate.

I love to speak to the pub­lic and to ed­u­cate others on ele­phants and to share the work Taronga has done for ele­phant con­ser­va­tion and what we con­tinue to do for species in re­la­tion to con­ser­va­tion and in­sur­ance pop­u­la­tions.

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