WIN! A dinner for 4 with TIGERS!

Animal Works are excited to announce a collaboration with Taronga Conservation Society. Later this year Taronga will be holding an exclusive dinner in their new state of the art tiger den (and yes, the tigers will be there too!). Animal Works will be there, as will our good friend Ace Bourke who will talk about his work with tigers in India, and there will be lots of other special guests including Adam Spencer who is our MC for the night. Want to win these 4 exclusive money-can't-buy tickets?? Keep reading below.

All you have to do to win is buy one of our 2017 Rhino Calendars which are now on sale for only $15. Everyone who buys one from 1st Feb 2017 will go into the running to win! Click here to get yours now. The winner will be announced on 1st June 2017, so the calendars will only be available until 31st May OR until they sell out. With an awesome opportunity like this they may sell out super quick so get your calendar NOW!

Please note: date of dinner is still TBC but we will of course keep you updated! Dinner will be held at Taronga Zoo in Mosman, NSW

Elephants and Bees, Sri Lanka by Kylie Butler (PhD Candidate)

I have been working on the Elephants and Bees, Sri Lanka project for almost 3 years now and am pleased to report that our pilot study is going well.

Our first year, back in 2014, was a very busy year of planning – visiting villages, learning from farmers about the many challenges they face living alongside elephants including the damage to crops and property inflicted during crop-raids, and determining which village and farms were most suitable for our pilot study. This lengthy period enabled me to form a strong local team, headed by my field assistant and translator Supun Herath, to begin to know the local farmers and let them get to know us, and to begin to learn about the many complicated and conflicting interactions between humans and elephants.

Our research site is located in Dewagiriya Village, Matale District, Central Sri Lanka. Located near to Wasgamuwa National Park and the Mahaweli River, Dewagiriya Village experiences almost year-round crop-raiding. Farmers rely on their crops – primarily rice – to feed their families and to sell at markets to generate income. From preparing fields, to planting, to harvesting, to storing harvests in their homes, farmers are always at risk from crop-raids and need to vigilantly protect their farms and houses.

To paint a picture of their ongoing challenges, since late 2014, farmers have reported more than 300 elephant events in Dewagiriya village with damage occurring approximately 75% of the time. Some damage is relatively small – a few banana trees perhaps – but it is not uncommon for substantial sections of paddy fields to be damaged in a single crop-raid, or for sections of houses to be knocked down, sometimes while the family is sleeping inside.

Farmers from Dewagiriya Village receive only minimal outside assistance to protect their crops – a few firecrackers to scare the elephants away – and interest and enthusiasm for setting up a beehive fence trial was high. We selected 10 of the worst affected households, scattered about the village, and working with the local community, we built 10 beehive fences to protect homes and home gardens.

Bee colony delivery.

Bee colony delivery.

For the last year and a half, we have been monitoring elephant activity around the fences – collecting data on elephant sightings both inside and outside fence boundaries from farmers, and using camera traps to try and identify the sex and group size of crop-raiders. We also work continuously with farmers to keep fences well-maintained and to increase their beekeeping skills.

While it is still too early to determine the success rate of beehive fence as an elephant deterrent at our field site, we have seen some promising signs. Elephants have broken through the fences on a few occasions, however with the exception of one raid, only near unoccupied hives. Farmers have also taken small amounts of honey from their hives and are slowly beginning to experience additional benefits of beekeeping.

Right now, our main focus is on improving beekeeping skills, so farmers are able to manage their own hives. We have two experienced beekeepers visiting our field site next month to spend two weeks workshopping and training with the farmers. Additionally, increasing hive occupations, so that the deterrent effect of the fences is higher and we can predict the deterrent effect with confidence, is another priority.

I will be at our field site in Sri Lanka for the next three months and look forward to posting updates as we learn more about the potential of beehive fencing as an Asian elephant deterrent along the way! 

Born Free 50th Anniversary Fundraiser

Come and celebrate the awesomeness that was George and Joy Adamson with us for the 50th anniversary of Born Free! 

Animal Works and The Feline Foundation come together once again to screen the film and we'll also be serving a delicious vegetarian buffet dinner afterwards! Yum!

When: Sunday 19th June at Govindas theatre and restaurant in Darlinghurst at 3.30pm. 

Tickets are only $50! Book now to celebrate the pioneers of lion conservation at this very special event. Tickets available here: http://www.animalworks.com.au/shop/#/bornfree/


100% of all proceeds goes to Wildlife ACT who are working to preserve the wild lions of the Okavango Delta, Botswana.

Volunteers needed!

Job Description

Volunteer Administrator

Role Requirements

·         Length of Appointment: Ongoing/Long term

·         Weekend Work: Occasionally

·         Minimum Age: 16

·         English Proficiency Required: Excellent

Benefits to the Volunteer

This role gives the volunteer a chance to be involved in a unique organisation that raises funds for wildlife conservation projects around the world. Animal Works focuses on using the visual arts as a means of bringing joy to their supporters and spreading their message of conservation through education. They run regular events such as dinners and screenings of classic movies, and are looking to widen their support base through the use of various fundraising methods. This would be an excellent role for anyone seeking to break into administration, fundraising, or make connections in the art world; likewise for those with an interest in conservation you would be on the front lines of making a real difference.

Indicative Duties

·         Assist the Committee with general administration duties

·         Assist the Committee with ad hoc queries and routine issues

·         Develop constructive working relationships with stakeholders

·         Work effectively with the Committee to meet agreed objectives

·         Perform data entry tasks in a timely and accurate manner

·         Monitor and respond to website, Facebook and other Animal Works-related media

·         Assist with running events as required

Skills

·         Excellent communication skills

·         Proactive

·         Able to work autonomously

·         Attention to detail

·         Flexible, creative approach to problem solving

·         Good typing and data entry accuracy

Reporting Lines

This role reports to the Committee Chairman.

Contact us if you are interested in volunteering: animalworksaustralia@gmail.com

BORN FREE - Second Screening

Animal Works Australia is excited to announce its latest fundraiser!


BORN FREE!

Once again, Event Cinemas, Animal Works and The Feline Foundation presents a very special fundraising event, a screening of the 1966 classic, Born Free. 

Join us, along with our friend Ace Bourke of Christian the Lion fame, at Event Cinemas in Sydney, on Saturday 8th August 2015 at 2pm to raise money for the king of the jungle!

100% of the profits from the screening will go to The Global White Lion Protection Trust in South Africa.

Each movie ticket includes a raffle ticket for a chance to win our lucky door prize - a $300 Husk gift bag. You can also purchase a raffle ticket for a chance to win a framed original white lion drawing by Nafisa (shown below) - which will be drawn at the end of the movie.

Tickets $20. To book click here: http://www.animalworks.com.au/shop/#/bornfree/

We here at Animal Works, along with our friends at The Feline Foundation, look forward to seeing you and your friends, family and colleagues. It will be a marvelous afternoon and funds raised will greatly assist Animal Works with our African lion conservation goals.

Welcoming our first bee colonies – elephants beware! By Kylie Butler (PhD Candidate)

With beehive fence construction almost complete for the first stage of our research site in Dewagiriya Village, Sri Lanka, the time has come for the event we’ve all been eagerly awaiting – introducing bees into their new homes. A bee has many tasks to fulfil as it is: protecting the queen, foraging and gathering pollen, making their delicious honey to name but a few… our bees can add defending homes and crops from elephants to their list of duties. Let’s hope it’s a task they excel at!

An elephant footprint in a home garden

An elephant footprint in a home garden

Our beehive fence farmers have been very keen for this day to arrive – most have been looking after their fence structure dutifully – making sure posts are straight, hives are clean and shade roofs are repaired after heavy rain or wind. Having bees to look after increases the incentive to look after the fence – plus, they can finally begin to learn some beekeeping skills, and as time goes on, learn to harvest honey for their own medicinal and culinary benefits, and to earn some additional income from selling the bees delicious wares.

 Teaching farmers how to transfer bees into the hives on their fences

 Teaching farmers how to transfer bees into the hives on their fences

And for everyone involved, and the prime motivation for constructing this research site, we will soon start to learn if the Asian elephants will indeed avoid the Asian honeybees, just as their African cousins do. Learning how the Asian elephants respond to the beehive fence will provide vital information as to how best to manage and develop this technique in Asia, and what role it could potentially play in alleviating human-elephant conflict here. Ideally, we would like to attract bees naturally from the wild, however to get the ball rolling, our lucky first farmers will each have 3 – 4 colonies transferred into the hives hanging on their fence. Our first delivery of colonies arrived from Colombo last week and it was a great learning experience for everyone involved in bee handling to transfer the buzzing families into their new hanging homes. We now have 3 fences with occupied hives, and another 5 fences to go in the next fortnight.

Teaching farmers how to transfer bees into the hives on their fences

Teaching farmers how to transfer bees into the hives on their fences

Elephant activity has been high in Dewagiriya in recent weeks – with the first crop season of the year over, most farmers have stacks of 50 kg rice bags stored in their homes, plus they are already planting for the next season. Elephants are coming up to the homes attracted by the rice they know is stored within. Several incidents have occurred, where elephants have entered gardens destroying banana and coconut plants before being scared away, posts of unoccupied beehive fences have been knocked down. Most devastating of all, the house of one young couple with a small baby was almost completely destroyed after elephants raided their property twice in one week. Unfortunately, this type of event is not an isolated occurrence, and emphasises strongly why it is so vital to help farmers devise means of protecting their homes and crops.

A bull elephant observed in Wasgamuwa National Park. The lumps evident on his side commonly occur as a result of gunshot or other wounds inflicted by farmers trying to defend their crops.

A bull elephant observed in Wasgamuwa National Park. The lumps evident on his side commonly occur as a result of gunshot or other wounds inflicted by farmers trying to defend their crops.

Let’s hope the beehive fences, full of our little guardians of nature, can also become the guardians these farmers need to keep their families and livelihoods safer at nights.

Twice in one week, an elephant visited this home at night while the family were sleeping inside - breaking down the entire wall to try and access rice harvest stored inside

Twice in one week, an elephant visited this home at night while the family were sleeping inside - breaking down the entire wall to try and access rice harvest stored inside

I extend a huge thankyou to the Rufford Small Grants for Nature Foundation, Chester Zoo Conservation Grant, Elephant Action League and Phoenix Zoo Conservation and Science Grant for their financial support, without which this project would not be possible. Sincerest thanks also go to collaborating partners The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society, Save the Elephants and Professor M. Wijayagunawardane (University of Peradeniya) for all of their valuable input and assistance. 

Do wildlife safaris benefit Asian elephant conservation? By Kylie Butler

Through my PhD work in Sri Lanka, I’m lucky enough to visit Wasgamuwa National Park almost weekly, to observe and collect elephant data. This is a beautiful and wild park in Central Sri Lanka with a healthy elephant population, and is not as frequented by tourists as more well-known destinations such as Yala and Minneriya National Parks. I’ve had magical days in the park surrounded by elephant families feeding and meandering by, calves rolling in the mud, and strong solitary bulls checking the females out. Unfortunately, I’ve also had less than magical days where the foolish actions of drivers causes elephants to become stressed and disturbed, repeatedly running away from, or charging at, vehicles.

An elephant family disturbed by a vehicle approaching too quickly and too close, and walking directly towards the car

An elephant family disturbed by a vehicle approaching too quickly and too close, and walking directly towards the car

It is these observations of both human and elephant behaviour that have left me thinking – does this type of Jeep Safari tourism really benefit wildlife? There is no question that money generated from National Park tourism can benefit a countries economy, thus provoking governments to perceive a financial incentive to protecting the parks inhabitants – of which in Sri Lanka, elephants are the most well-known, majestic and easily viewable of the terrestrial mammals. Placing this type of financial value on wild elephant populations can encourage governments to implement conservation planning and to ensure the animals continue to benefit the country in the future. I personally think that the elephants intrinsic value as an elephant is more than enough reason for protection. However, governments tend to speak a language of money, and financial benefits can be a key influencing factor for those who devise the management plans and regulations that can make or break the future of elephants. The more importance that is placed on elephants in the wild, the more incentive there is for governments to stop the illegal capture of baby elephants, to actively implement human-elephant conflict mitigation plans, and to manage the National Parks well – all vital factors in securing a future for wild Asian elephants.

Sri Lanka is home to Asia’s second largest wild elephant population, and being a small island boasts the highest density of wild Asian elephants. The numerous, aesthetically breath-taking National Park’s offer a unique opportunity for tourists to see elephants up-close in the wild, akin to the safari experience so revered across Africa. Theoretically, a well-managed park system could have a multitude of benefits to elephant conservation. People would experience the awe-inspiring wonder of watching elephants just being elephants: socialising; caring for their floppy and uncoordinated young; trunk wrestling in a game of strength; rhythmically feeding on grass. From bulls to small families and huge herds – you can see it all. No chains, no circus tricks, no unethical rides on busy roads. Just the sights, smells and sounds of the elephants natural world. This is an incomparable opportunity to educate people about elephants and their role in an ecosystem, and to generate money for wildlife management and conservation through park tourism.      

A family of elephants interacting in Wasgamuwa NP. It was a real privilege to watch this family of elephants doing what they do best - just being elephants in the wild.

A family of elephants interacting in Wasgamuwa NP. It was a real privilege to watch this family of elephants doing what they do best - just being elephants in the wild.

Sadly, my personal experiences over the last year and a half, and stories shared by other researchers and tourists, show that the safari experience all too often deviates from the idyllic description above. Many trackers, guides and drivers appear to have little knowledge of an elephants behaviour, and are either oblivious to, or deliberately disregard, any guidelines about responsible safari tourism. It is not unusual in parks such as Yala and Minneriya to see up to 20 vehicles surrounding elephants, often blocking their path to road crossings or water tanks, and even separating mothers and calves. One bold bull in Yala has learned to wait at a certain point on the road which cars have to pass, and to poke his trunk into safari vehicles looking for food, and refusing to leave without a treat. This behaviour is 100% driven by humans, and if one day, the bull isn’t happy with what’s on offer and flips a car, he will likely be killed or captured as a ‘problem’ animal. In Wasgamuwa National Park, I see drivers speeding up to elephants, startling them and ignoring all common warning signals that the elephant is upset. Often if an elephant charges, the driver will reverse back up to them, causing more elephants to join in the charge. Tourists must take their fair share of the blame also, as many tip generously for this type of close-up, adrenaline pumping encounter. It is no wonder some elephants are becoming less tolerant, rather than more relaxed, around vehicles.

There is nothing fun or nice about making an elephant feel threatened in its own home. Here in Sri Lanka, human-elephant conflict is the single biggest threat to elephant conservation. People and elephants come into conflict all too frequently, as elephant habitat diminishes, and elephants enter communities to raid crops at nights. The National Parks should be a safe haven for elephants, a place they want to be. Sri Lanka needs strict park rules and regulations that are enforced not just printed on a piece of paper. Tourists need to know the do’s and don’ts of park etiquette prior to beginning a safari and can lay down their own laws too, by expressing their desire to view the elephants natural behaviour and not disturb them. Drivers, trackers and guides must be educated in wildlife behaviour, tourism and conservation.

Photo by Lauren E. Ross

Photo by Lauren E. Ross

 Guides and tourists have encouraged this bull to approach cars for treats. Surrounding by multiple cars, he buries his trunk into the back of jeeps searching for food. Many safari guides and drivers encourage this behavior to give their tourists a unique experience. This is extremely dangerous as the bull will not leave until he receives food now and ambushes cars. Note the front left tyre of the car lifted up, as the bull uses his head and tusks to push on the car until he is satisfied with his treats. Photo by Lauren E. Ross

 Guides and tourists have encouraged this bull to approach cars for treats. Surrounding by multiple cars, he buries his trunk into the back of jeeps searching for food. Many safari guides and drivers encourage this behavior to give their tourists a unique experience. This is extremely dangerous as the bull will not leave until he receives food now and ambushes cars. Note the front left tyre of the car lifted up, as the bull uses his head and tusks to push on the car until he is satisfied with his treats. Photo by Lauren E. Ross

A protected area should be a place where the needs and welfare of the wildlife is unquestionably the highest priority. Otherwise, we run the very real risk of safari tourism becoming just another detrimental source of fuel in the human-elephant conflict inferno.

I’d be very interested to hear the experiences and opinions of others lucky enough to visit Asia’s wild elephants, and to share ideas on how we can improve park tourism to the benefit of all stakeholders across all species involved.  

A Special Fundraiser... Born Free!

We are very excited about our next fundraiser, a special screening of everyone's favourite classic wildlife film, Born Free! Together with Event Cinemas and The Feline Foundation we'll be screening it in aid of white lions in South Africa on Saturday 18th April at 3.30pm, at Event Cinemas, George St, Sydney.

100% of the profits from the screening will go to The Global White Lion Protection Trust in South Africa. The Global White Lion Protection Trust run a hands-off scientific reintroduction program of the majestic white lion, back into its natural habitat of Timbavati in South Africa, and they are doing an amazing job. They are an extremely worthy cause, so please come along and bring your friends and family to lend your support.

Ace Bourke of Christian  the Lion fame will join us and we have some awesome goodies to give away at the event too! Each movie ticket includes a free show bag and raffle ticket for our lucky door prizes - a chance to win a framed original lion drawing by Nafisa AND a chance to win a ticket to the upcoming Kevin Richardson talk in Sydney - which will be drawn at the end of the movie.

Click here to book your tickets now, and you can RSVP to the event on Facebook here.

Watch the Born Free trailer above.

Elephants and Bees Sri Lanka by Kylie Butler, PhD Candidate

These are exciting times at our beehive fence research site in Sri Lanka, with beehive fences completed and encircling the homes of five households, and plans for two additional fences to be built within the next few weeks. The timing couldn’t be better, as farmers have been busily harvesting their acres of paddy field. This is tireless work, not only the physical labour involved in the harvest itself, but the sleepless nights spent guarding the fields from tree huts, making sure they are safe from the hungry bellies of elephants living nearby. Unfortunately for these farmers, their crops are not yet safe despite being out of the ground and bagged into neat 50 kg sacks. Most families will now store these huge bags of rice inside their home, keeping them until the market price is good. Elephants, being the intelligent beings they are and also having huge daily forage intake requirements, are known to break into people’s houses – knocking down walls or tearing off roofs, to access the crops stored inside.

This battle-scarred old bull (sure signs he is a crop-raider) was undeterred by our presence, or that of a farmer chasing after him and lighting a huge fire cracker. This shows both how difficult it can be to scare away elephants, but also the mounting frustrations of the community as there was no visibly apparent reason in this situation to be trying to scare the bull. 

This battle-scarred old bull (sure signs he is a crop-raider) was undeterred by our presence, or that of a farmer chasing after him and lighting a huge fire cracker. This shows both how difficult it can be to scare away elephants, but also the mounting frustrations of the community as there was no visibly apparent reason in this situation to be trying to scare the bull. 

After leaving the field site when the rainy season rendered village roads unpassable, and fence building and elephant observations virtually impossible for a few months, I have returned happy to see the beehive fences being looked after, and the farmers still enthused about using this deterrent technique. I am, of course, not happy to see that the human-elephant conflict is showing no sign of abating and perhaps worsening in the general area. Just a few weeks ago, I watched a large bull elephant, heavily scarred and marred with wounds and abscesses (presumably human-inflicted) meander out of the forest and towards the water tank for a drink. He was minding his own business but had apparently been harassing a farmers buffalo the night before, hence the farmer chased after him and lit a government issued firecracker that let off a terrific boom to chase him away. The bull barely flinched, and continued on his way. I also spent a sleepless night at my research camp, listening to fire crackers igniting all around me and the sounds of the community yelling and clapping and banging, as families tried for well over an hour to deter elephants from their crops. I finally understood what people mean when they say it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to scare elephants away. From the safety of my bed, I felt a tiny bit of the intensity and challenges of human-elephant coexistence which reinforced just how serious it is to securing a future for elephants, that we can work with communities to facilitate a more peaceful environment for both species. As people and elephants become more mutually aggressive and afraid of each other, the behaviour of all is becoming more unpredictable, thus fuelling the danger of the situation.

Kylie Butler and Supun Herath (field assistant) with Mrs. Ghanawathi and her family - our newest beehive fence farmers. Mrs. Ghanawathi supports her family alone since the passing of her husband a few years ago, tending the fields and protecting the house. She lives at the edge of Dewagiriya Village, with a forested area along one side of her house and a water tank along the back - making this a prime area for elephant visitation.

Kylie Butler and Supun Herath (field assistant) with Mrs. Ghanawathi and her family - our newest beehive fence farmers. Mrs. Ghanawathi supports her family alone since the passing of her husband a few years ago, tending the fields and protecting the house. She lives at the edge of Dewagiriya Village, with a forested area along one side of her house and a water tank along the back - making this a prime area for elephant visitation.

A small positive is that the predominant view of the local community also seems to be that elephants should be protected. So long as the people are protected too, nobody wants to see this magnificent animal become extinct. This statement thoroughly emphasises the need to work legitimately with communities to implement community-based crop-raiding deterrents that farmers can use with minimal assistance – of which the beehive fence is a brilliant example. In situations such as here, where government assistance in reducing human-elephant conflict is often insufficient, and a relatively large population of elephants spent a good amount of time outside of protected park boundaries, farmers are desperately keen to find new solutions to protect their livelihoods and families. Farmers are especially excited by the additional income generating opportunity of producing honey, while also protected their homes from elephants.

A bull elephant near Weheragala Corridor, testing the air before he emerges fully from the forest. He caught the scent of a passing cyclist and retreated back into the forest

A bull elephant near Weheragala Corridor, testing the air before he emerges fully from the forest. He caught the scent of a passing cyclist and retreated back into the forest

Right now, we are very close to finishing the first stage of our beehive fence trial in Sri Lanka, which is to establish 8 beehive fences around the home and garden areas of farmers, which will be monitored closely, along with unfenced areas, during the coming crop seasons. Already, we have observed, through the presence of their giant footprints, elephants approaching one of the fences and deciding not to break through. However, without bee occupations elephants will soon realise the physical structure of the fence imposes no real threat. We have one hive occupied naturally – showing the potential of this heavily vegetated area for beekeeping, and will be working with local beekeeping expert Dr. R.W.K. Punchihewa to colonise hives at all fence sites in the coming weeks. I look forward to keeping you updated on our progress with both the beehive fences, and our concurrent investigations of elephant crop-raiding behaviour. 

Kylie Butler and Supun Herath inspecting a beehive from Mr. U.G. Sabana's fence - our first colonised hive!

Kylie Butler and Supun Herath inspecting a beehive from Mr. U.G. Sabana's fence - our first colonised hive!

*A big thank you to Save the Elephants and the Sri Lankan Wildlife Conservation Society for their collaboration on this project, and to the Rufford Small Grants for Nature Foundation, Chester Zoo, Elephant Action League and Phoenix Zoo for their financial assistance.  

Say hello to our newest wildlife blogger! Kylie Butler

I’ve followed the invaluable conservation endeavours of Animal Works since its beginning and I have to say what a wonderful opportunity to be able to contribute to the conversation and education regarding the protection of our magical natural world through blogging on this website.

My name is Kylie Butler and I am a PhD student with the University of Newcastle, Australia researching what I consider to be one of the most globally important issues – human-elephant conflict. To briefly introduce myself, I have previously worked as an intern and Master of Environment research student with Save the Elephants in Kenya, and on an elephant ‘voluntourism’ project with Global Vision International in Thailand. Everything about elephants fascinates me – from their intricate individual behaviours, their family and social structures, their cultural and religious value and how this helps or hinders their conservation and welfare, and their tricky relationship with human beings.

A family of elephants emerging from the forest cover to use a water tank shared with people on the outskirts of a village

A family of elephants emerging from the forest cover to use a water tank shared with people on the outskirts of a village

This co-existence with humans forms the basis of my PhD study, and I imagine will be the focus of the vast majority of my blogs, as it is this topic that is consuming my life right now. At present, I am sitting in the open-walled research/field house of the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS), competing with a myriad of insects that are attacking my computer screen, and planning just how I can contribute to human-elephant conflict mitigation here in Sri Lanka, where the unfortunately not uncommon scenario of rising human populations and reduced elephant habitat, is contributing to escalating levels of human-elephant conflict.

I am working under the supervision of Dr. Lucy King (Save the Elephants) and in collaboration with SLWCS to investigate the behaviour and social dynamics of elephants in a heavily crop-raided area of Central Sri Lanka. What I will do over the next two years, is to examine characteristics of crop-raiding elephants, their personality, their relatedness to one another and to identify how these factors may influence an elephants propensity to crop-raid. Simultaneously, I will be introducing beehive fencing as an elephant crop-raiding deterrent.

Beehive fencing was designed by my supervisor Dr. King and is showing tremendous success in Africa, where farmers are benefiting considerably from reduced crop-raiding events and an alternative income source through honey sales. A beehive fence is, put quite simply, a series of beehives hung from posts and surrounding an area to be protected from elephants. The beehives are connected by wire, and should an elephant attempt to move between the hives to access the crops inside, it will hit the wire causing the beehives to swing, and the bees to swarm out and sting the elephants. Understandably, elephants do not appreciate bee stings and avoid the fences!

This concept is new to Asia and working with a different species of elephant and a different species of bees could of course, produce different results. This is why it is so important to test this idea in Asia and evaluate the potential here. Like so many other human-elephant conflict areas, my research site in Dewagiriya Village, Sri Lanka is a low socio-economic community where farmers rely on crops to support themselves and their families. This village is in close proximity to Wasgamuwa National Park so it is possible elephants are leaving park boundaries to crop raid. However, many elephant also reside primarily outside of National Park boundaries here. Elephants are tempted by the tasty treats of paddy fields, maize, fruit trees and vegetables, even breaking into houses to access crops stored inside. One farmer even told me of an elephant breaking down their kitchen wall and taking his salt. Here, I see both the devastation an elephant can cause to the farmer, and the devastation the farmer can cause to the elephants. Many elephants are suffering from bullet wounds and are obviously aggressive and nervous around people.

I am currently setting up a trial beehive fencing site of 8 fenced farms, looking at protecting people’s homes and home gardens to evaluate the initial potential of this low-cost, low-maintenance technique to help keep both elephants and people safe.

Myself, my field assistant Supun Herath, and the Somathilaka family, standing beside the first beehive fence to be built in Sri Lanka

Myself, my field assistant Supun Herath, and the Somathilaka family, standing beside the first beehive fence to be built in Sri Lanka

Stay tuned over the coming months, as I discuss further the issues facing Dewagiriya village, which I believe are representative of many human-elephant conflict areas, how the beehive fences are progressing, and other human-elephant conflict related issues.   

*A big thank you to Save the Elephants and the Sri Lankan Wildlife Conservation Society for their collaboration on this project, and to the Rufford Small Grants for Nature Foundation, Chester Zoo, Elephant Action League and Phoenix Zoo for their financial assistance.  

Global March for Lions

The Global March for Lions is coming up again! We will be marching in Sydney alongside our good friend Ace Bourke once again.

John Rendall, Ace Bourke and Christian the Lion in the 1970s.

John Rendall, Ace Bourke and Christian the Lion in the 1970s.

Sydney's march will be held on Saturday 14th March 2015 at Parliament House at 11am. We will once again march to Town Hall, so please come along and join us! The march is being organised by three passionate young ladies; Jess, Alison and our very own Sarah from The Feline Foundation. For more information on Sydney's march click here

Ace and the Animal Works team at last year's march

Ace and the Animal Works team at last year's march

What are we marching for you might be wondering? We are marching to raise awareness and hopefully end the barbaric practice of canned hunting. Canned hunting is the hunting of wild animals in a confined area from which they cannot escape. It is not only legal in South Africa, it is flourishing. Hunters from all over the world (but notably from the United States, Germany, Spain, France and the UK) flock to South Africa in their thousands and send home lion body parts, such as the head and skin, preserved by taxidermists, to show off their supposed prowess. The animals involved are habituated to human contact, often hand-reared and bottle fed, so are no longer naturally fearful of people. Such animals will approach people expecting to get fed – but instead receive a bullet, or even an arrow from a hunting bow. The animal is sometimes drugged so it can’t run away, and often lioness mothers refuse to leave their initial enclosure (where it grew up) because it is leaving cubs behind, so the mother lion is shot right there in front of them. It is really a disgusting industry that we need to raise awareness about.

If you're not in Sydney, there are events happening all over the world, click here to see if your city is one of them and like the Global March for Lions page on Facebook for updates.

Habitat Loss - Borneo and Sumatra by Liesa Leddick

Hello again,

The topic of environment and conservation is so huge; it’s difficult to know where to start! So I think the best place to start is focussing on the current projects that Animal Works support, and go into the background, perhaps, of why those projects need support or even exist. How and why did those animals end up in those situations in the first place? There is generally more than one reason, and in fact is usually as a result of a number of reasons that become increasingly complex, with no simple solutions.

Currently, Animal Works supports the Orang-utan Legacy Forest in Borneo. Orang-utans literally means “person of the forest” (translated from Malay and Indonesian words). There are two exclusively Asian species of Great Apes, native to Indonesia and Malaysia, and are only found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. They have 97% of DNA in common with humans and, charmingly, their scientific name is “Pongo”.

Sadly, extinction in the wild is likely in the next 10 years for Sumatran Orang-utans (Pongo abelii), to followed closely by the Bornean Orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus). According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, Sumatran Orang-utans are rarer, and listed as Critically Endangered. It is considered one of "The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates." Bornean Orang-utans are listed as Endangered.

Orang-utan distribution throughout Sumatra and Borneo. 1999. (http://primatologie.revues.org/docannexe/image/219/img-1-small480.jpg ) Probably far less now but was unable to find a more up to date map. 

For those who don’t know, the island of Borneo is divided among 3 countries: Indonesia (73%), Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak = 26%), and Brunei (1%) and is 140 million years old, and is one of the oldest rainforests in the world. It harbours 3,000 species of trees; 15,000 species of flowering plants; 221 species of known terrestrial mammals; 420 known species of birds; and around 440 different species of freshwater fish. Quite clearly, Bornean rainforests are one of the most biodiversity rich in the world, and is one of the few remaining habitats for the endangered Bornean Orang-utan, and other native species such as the Asian Elephant, the highly endangered Sumatran Rhinoceros, the recently discovered Bornean Clouded Leopard, the rare Hose’s Civet, and Dayak Fruit Bat.

Borneo deforestation http://www.grida.no/graphicslib/thumbs/1805c933-493c-4b85-be16-ad06eb342332/medium/extent-of-deforestation-in-borneo-1950-2005-and-projection-towards-2020_119c.jpg

Sumatra, an Indonesian island, also has the most biologically diverse rainforests in the world, supporting a huge array of animal and plant species, but has sadly lost almost 70% of its rainforest in the last 35 years. Many species who reside in these forests are also critically endangered, such as the Sumatran Elephant, whose status was changed from “Endangered” to Critically Endangered” in 2012 because half of its population was lost in one generation. This decline was due to habitat loss and human-elephant conflict.  Other species that reside in the vanishing Sumatran rainforests are the Sumatran Ground Cuckoo (critically endangered); the Sumatran Tiger (critically endangered with less than 400 left in the wild); and the Sumatran Orangutan.

Deforestation is a key factor in the loss of habitat, and from deforestation comes a swathe of other problems: poaching (much easier access to the animals); human-wildlife conflict (as the animals have nowhere to go, and end up ‘encroaching’ on where the humans have set up camp – which was originally the animals’ territory anyway…and the people wonder why the animals come…); corruption; illegal logging; and the illegal wildlife trade. Even designated conservation areas have not been spared from this destruction.

palm-oil-climatechange4.jpg
http://earthpulse.nationalgeographic.com/earthpulse/img/straining-resources-643.jpg

So why is the deforestation occurring? Mainly due to overpopulation (more and more human settlements creep further and further into rainforest); agriculture (rice and coffee plantations often by illegal settlers); plantations (the insidious palm oil industry, pulp, paper, and plywood); and illegal timber harvesting.

My husband and I enjoy travelling to south east Asia for our mini breaks, and although we enjoy our time away, we loathe flying over Singapore and Malaysia because we simply cannot bear to see the huge swathes of old-growth (or primary) rainforest being completely and utterly decimated to be replaced by agriculture. We have holidayed in Langkawi where we cannot see the surrounding islands for a week, because of the heavy smoke coming from Indonesia burning down their forests. I can’t even imagine how many thousands of acres were burned to create that much smoke to travel that far across an ocean. We experienced the same heavy smoke when we visited Kuala Lumpur. It was utterly depressing, and all we could do was sit there and imagine how many animals were dying in the process and we actually found it difficult to enjoy our holidays. We asked a number of locals about it and they all said basically the same thing – it happens very frequently. It’s very common. It happens all the time. It’s normal.

2.jpg

Smoke haze from burning forests form palm oil plantations. http://business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/images/Kuala-Lumpur-haze-sunset-by-Firdaus-Latif-via-Wikimedia-Commons.jpg

How can destroying hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of acres of old growth rainforest that contain such rich and necessary biodiversity for the survival of humankind (not to mention, animalkind), be considered ‘normal’ and dismissed with a wave of the hand and a disposable mouth cover? Do people not understand not only the importance of trees and plants in terms of their own survival (er, by producing oxygen) let alone the incredibly number of priceless species that are being destroyed every day, never to return? Having said that, the sheer amount of smoke emanating from the burning forests of Indonesia is creating tensions with the neighbouring countries of Singapore and Malaysia, but what can they do? Probably nothing.

With good old fashioned ‘sovereignty’, a state has the full right and power to govern itself without any interference from outside states, sources or bodies. And Indonesia is using that to its fullest advantage. And not just with the destruction of rainforests. That’s another blog topic but we’ll stick with conservation for the time being. But sovereignty raises the issue of environmental security and the fact that nature knows no borders. Nature is transnational. Nature doesn’t care that the Indonesian smoke blows onto Malaysia and Singapore (how annoying!). It raises questions on how states can – or if they are even willing to - work together for the sake of the planet.

The bigger picture is oft overlooked and in the meantime virgin rainforests are being destroyed along with hundreds of known animal species, and who knows how many unknown species? Biologists, ecologists and numerous other scientists have been more than vocal in sharing their knowledge with governments about what we as a species are doing to the planet we inhabit. And I know the Australian government is just as guilty. Governments and big corporations won’t listen. Poachers, illegal traders and people trying to put food on the table won’t listen. The general public need to know what is happening, and apply pressure to governments to make policy changes.

Basically, all this death and destruction is all to make a dollar. But at what cost?

My following blogs will go into more detail on habitat loss – who, what, why, how, when. And furthermore – can it be stopped?


References:

http://www.orangutan.org.au/orangutan-facts

^ Mittermeier, R.A.; Wallis, J.; Rylands, A.B.; Ganzhorn, J.U.; Oates, J.F.; Supriatna, E.A.; Palacios, E.; Heymann, E.W.; Kierulff, M.C.M., eds. (2009). "Primates in Peril: The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates 2008–2010" (PDF). Illustrated by S.D. Nash. Arlington, VA.: IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group (PSG), International Primatological Society (IPS), and Conservation International (CI). pp. 1–92. ISBN 978-1-934151-34-1.

MacKinnon, K et al. (1998). The Ecology of Kalimantan. London: Oxford University Press.

http://hoscap-borneo.org/

Photos:

Orangutan distribution http://primatologie.revues.org/image.php?source=docannexe/image/219/img-1-small640.jpg&titlepos=up

Say hello to our new wildlife blogger! Liesa Leddick

When I was given the opportunity to write a blog for Animal Works, I was delighted. After all, with a passion for wildlife and conservation, what better way to share my thoughts and knowledge than through a well known organisation’s website, such as Animal Works, who are dedicated to conservation through education? But before I leap in head first, throwing knowledge and opinions around cyberspace, I think I should give you a snapshot of my background, without sending you to sleep.

Like most children, I grew up loving animals and the great outdoors. Numerous furry, feathered, scaly and hooved creatures accompanied me throughout my childhood, and still do. I loved to climb trees (and occasionally fall out of them, much to my mother’s horror), lie still for hours on the grass, absorbed in the busy microcosm of the insect world, and save drowning ladybirds from swimming pools. I used to cry when I saw baby seals getting clubbed on television, lions getting shot, and even clear-felling of trees. I felt an innate connection to the natural world, even as a child, and as a young woman, I considered myself a ‘greenie’, minus the dreadlocks.

I watched the environmental movement grow throughout the 80s and 90s. I observed other greenies (often with dreadlocks) protest against the Franklin Dam in Tasmania; uranium mining at Roxby Downs; nuclear testing in Mururoa Atoll; and the Jabiluka Uranium mine site. I witnessed a younger Greenpeace become more and more influential. And I saw a fledgling Sea Shepherd become more and more popular. I admired their gumption and their bravery. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to defend our planet. What humankind were doing to our fragile planet was (and still are) is intrinsically wrong and incredibly detrimental. How could (and can) people not see that?

However, one thing that struck me the most, back in the day, was the general public’s perception of these ‘greenies’ trying to ‘save the world’. It wasn’t positive. Most of the general public dismissed the protesters as, ‘dole bludging hippies with nothing better to do’, ‘dope-smoking do-gooders’, and ‘no-hopers that need a good bath’. I’ve lost count of the times that I tried to defend those very protesters, pointing out that what they are doing is altruistic; they are thinking of our future generations; and they are not thinking of their own hip pocket, unlike most other people in the world. I ended up remaining silent, as I discovered that people would argue vehemently against those ‘useless greenies’ and would never back down. There was no point in arguing with them. They wouldn’t listen. Oddly, it seemed to be a very touchy subject for many people.

But I decided what people needed was a different ‘type’ of ‘greenie’. A well-groomed, educated professional greenie, whom people would take seriously, whom people would listen to, and respect. Someone who could potentially change policies on environmental issues in government or be able to educate future generations. Because I believe that education is the key to saving the planet, future generations are the only ones who can remedy the damage we have already done to the planet. Of course, there are many ‘greenies’ out there like that now, thank goodness, and I believe that has helped change the perception of the environmental movement, and has encouraged the general public to take environmental issues far more seriously.

So I completed my Bachelor of Applied Science in Ecotourism in 2003, which further fanned my flames of passion for wildlife and conservation, and then completed my Master of International Relations and National Security in 2012 with my thesis based on Transnational Organised Crime Networks and the Illegal Wildlife Trade.

Now, I am ashamed to say that with all of my interest over the years in wildlife and conservation, I knew nothing about the illegal wildlife trade. I literally stumbled across the topic whilst on holiday in Thailand reading a paper on a local bus. It was a tiny snippet of news somewhere in the middle of the paper, only about five sentences long, about some poacher who had been caught and convicted of poaching some poor innocent endangered animals, then let off with little more than a smack on the hand. My interest was piqued. On my return home, I looked into the topic further and discovered that is a cruel, multi-billion dollar global industry, and decided to do my Master’s thesis on it. For nearly a year whilst researching, I spent each and every day crying over my laptop, horrified and despairing at the barbarity and heartlessness of human beings.

Currently I teach International Relations at university as a Sessional Lecturer, and try to educate the students about conservation and environment where I can within the curriculum. This year, I hope to start my PhD based on the impact of the illegal wildlife trade on the environment, with the objective to open as many doors as I can, change as many minds as I can, and influence as many people as I can regarding the illegal wildlife trade and conservation and wildlife in general.

Nature conservation is a massive field, encompassing an endless array of issues and challenges such as: ecosystems; biodiversity; climate; forests; oceans; wildlife; poaching; the illegal wildlife trade; environmental crime; and habitat loss, just to name a few. Animal Works focuses on conservation through education; something I plan to write regularly about on their blog, on issues and current projects such as habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and solutions, orphaned wildlife care, and poaching. I look forward to writing interesting and educational blogs for you, the reader, and I hope you enjoy my upcoming pieces.

Liesa Leddick

Enter to WIN an African Safari for TWO! Or sign up to secure your spot.

We are so excited about our upcoming safari to the best wildlife viewing spot on the planet - Kenya! Thanks to The Classic Safari Company, our founder Nafisa will lead a small exclusive group across the stunning plains of Kenya in October visiting our elephant conservation projects such as The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

You will travel in style, staying at only the best luxury accommodation. You can buy a raffle ticket here to win a spot for two, or you can secure your spot by signing up for the safari, details below. If you choose to buy a raffle ticket as well, and just so happen to win, we'll refund your safari cost!

Please note: 100% of the proceeds from the raffle go back to elephant conservation: 50% to the DSWT and the remaining 50% will be split between the 
Save The Elephant Project and the Mara Elephant Project.