Myanmar has 5000 elephants in captivity. Elephant Care International is helping to train elephant veterinarians, provide technical support, and develop welfare guidelines for Myanmar’s emerging elephant tourism industry.
Bull elephants at a Myanmar Timber Elephant research camp, where we are enhancing veterinary capacity
Long-term colleague Dr. Khyne U Mar (R). Recommendations from our team have improved the husbandry and care of the white elephants in Yangon.
Elephant Care International has been collaborating with the Myanmar Timber Elephant Research Program (http://myanmar-timber-elephant.group.shef.ac.uk/) since 2012. The program, currently based at the University of Turku in Finland is a long-term study to address diverse topics ranging from demography, social behavior, ageing, welfare and conservation, to veterinary health issues.
ECI’s role is focused on building the capacity of Myanmar’s elephant veterinarians through workshops and one-on-one training. The first workshop “Professional Strategies to Improve Asian Elephant Management in Myanmar” was held in November 2012. During this field visit Dr. Mikota helped set up a small laboratory at one of the remote elephant camps and donated a freezer to store serum.
In 2014 we conducted health assessments of white elephants in Yangon, zoo elephants in Nay Pyi Taw, and government-owned elephants residing at several logging camps.
We also began a TB surveillance program, testing 86 elephants at 3 different sites. Dr. Mikota gave presentations on tuberculosis at the Rufford Grantees Conference and Elephant Symposium and Dagon University and at Nay Pyi Taw Zoo she presented information on foot care to the staff.
As an instructor in the “Capacity Building for Zoo and MTE Veterinarians” Workshop held at the Nay Pyi Taw Zoological Gardens during March 2015, Dr. Mikota gave four presentations focused on topics to enhance the ability of zoo and elephant veterinarians to better understand clinical pathology and its application to the diagnosis and treatment of medical problems. She also led a laboratory session on urinalysis. Her other scheduled lab sessions were kindly led by Dr. Tint Naing after Dr. Mikota fell ill with the flu! Working internationally does have its hazards.
Dr. Htoo Htoo Aung (l) and Dr. Susan Mikota (r) preparing samples for evaluation sedimentation rates (ESR).
Dr. Htoo Htoo Aung reading the ESR tubes
Following the Nay Pyi Taw Zoo Workshop, our team traveled to Katha to Kywe Craw Camp. This is a nursing/mother camp where we are helping Dr. Khyne U Mar to identify ways to reduce calf mortality. There were 49 elephants and eight babies. Veterinarians collected blood for TB testing and serum banking and two elephants were treated for nutritional deficiencies.
Dr. Mikota returned to Myanmar in October 2015 for an additional 14 weeks of field work. This trip began with Dr. Mikota presenting at the Asian Society of Conservation Medicine meeting in Yangon. Visits were made to the Nat Pauk tourist camp to continue TB surveillance and to the nursing camp to check mothers and babies (always a delight!).
A highlight of the trip was the opportunity to spend several weeks traveling with Dr. Win Htut and his mobile clinic giving the two seasoned veterinarians ample time to exchange ideas.
Dr. Mikota also participated in a Positive Reinforcement Training Workshop aimed at teaching oozies (mahouts) more gentle methods.
Our next project is to organize a pathology workshop in Myanmar in conjunction with Dr. Dalen Agnew at Michigan State University. The capacity to perform comprehensive post-mortem examinations is lacking here (and in other Asian countries). As unpleasant as this task is, the information that is gained is vital to help the living elephants.
Please support our work in Myanmar.
Dr. Susan Mikota and Dr. Win Htut at one of the logging elephant health camps.