With no more than 30,000 elephants left in the forests of Asia, the Asian elephant is rapidly declining throughout its range. In fact, it is thought that this current figure is less than one tenth of the population of the Asian elephant's African cousin.
Habitat loss and degradation are leading to populations of Asian elephants becoming fragmented in their environment. As their habitat shrinks, elephants and humans come into conflict as elephants raid crop fields and destroy homes and property. This human-elephant conflict is thought to be the leading cause of elephants being killed in the wild.
But human-elephant conflict isn't the only cause of declining Asian elephant populations. The threat of poaching and hunting of elephants for their tusks, which are highly sort after on the illegal black market, is another leading cause. Tackling these issues to help save the Asian elephant requires a holistic approach. The challenge facing most conservation programs in south-east Asia is to balance the needs of the wildlife and their habitat, as well as the socio-economic needs of the local communities.
Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors supports two on-the-ground elephant conservation programs. One is based in central and north Sumatra, while the other is located in the critical habitat regions of Cambodia. The forests within these regions represent some of the largest continuous blocks of habitat and last remaining stronghold for the Asian elephant in the wild. These programs use holistic strategies which not only help to save the Asian elephant in the wild, but have helped to develop alternative livelihoods for the communities where both elephants and humans live.