Title of symposium:
Moving towards coexistence – reconciling Asian elephant’s behaviour and humans’ social dimension

Principal Organizer:
Dr. Wong Ee Phin

Co-organizer:
Dr. Nurzhafarina Othman

Symposium summary:
Asian elephants are being threatened by the lack of habitat and also human-elephant conflict (HEC) throughout its range. Beside the lack of knowledge on elephant populations 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 dimensions and elephant’s behaviour) to promote deeper insights into human-elephant conflict and mitigation impacts. Our speakers will look at the intricate relationship between human and elephants, emphasising on what it takes to engage with local communities and to live together with elephants. Conservationists are expanding their toolbox, focusing not just on technology (e.g. SMS, GPS satellites collars, acoustics, non-invasive hormone studies), but also cognitive psychology and engaging with business sector including insurance schemes and product certifications.

List of speakers

  1. Dr. M Ananda Kumar
    Scientist, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, India
    Topic: Elephant messengers: mobiles for Asian elephant conservation in urbanized settings
  2. Jamie Wadey
    PhD Candidate, Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME)/ The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
    Topic: Movement responses of translocated elephants in Peninsular Malaysia
  3. Nachiketha Sharma
    PhD Candidate, Wildlife Research Center, Kyoto University
    Topic: Behavioural responses of Asian elephants to human disturbance in relatively undisturbed habitat
  4. Ashoka Ranjeewa
    MPhil/PhD student, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
    Topic: Tool use by elephants- implication for HEC mitigation in Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka
  5. Alessandra Markos, Project Manager for Rurality Project in Sabah, The Forest Trust (TFT) & Dr. Nurzhafarina Othman, Director of Project Seratu Atai, Danau Girang Field Center
    Topic: Supporting human-elephant conflict (HEC) management through responsible sourcing initiative: a preliminary case study of Ulu Muanad, Sabah, Malaysia.
  6. Dr. Simon Hedges
    Independent consultant
    Topic: Do new developments in insurance schemes represent a promising new way to facilitate human-elephant co-existence?
  7. Dr. Wong Ee Phin
    Assistant Professor/ Co-Investigator Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants
    Topic: Breaking through “Us versus them”: how cognitive psychology and hormones help to bridge the divide between humans and elephants
  8. Dr. Alexandra Zimmerman
    Head of Conservation Science, Chester Zoo & Head of IUCN Human Wildlife Conflict Task Force
    Topic: The principles of human dimensions in HEC mitigation processes.