Table of ContentsNext Page


The Asian elephant has played an important role in the cultural, economic and social life of Asia for millennia. However, it has been increasingly marginalized in the region and, apart from Myanmar, there is now little demand for the traditional work done by elephants. Transporting goods and people over difficult terrain, for example, is now done by motor vehicles and most of this takes place on paved roads. Elephants in logging have been replaced by heavy machines in most countries, or logging itself has been banned to conserve scarce forest resources. Combined with the dwindling habitat, these changes are threatening the continued existence of elephants.

Recognizing such conditions, FAO and the Japan Wildlife Research Center (JWRC) jointly commissioned a series of studies on domesticated Asian elephants in all 11 domesticated elephant range countries in 2000. On the basis of these studies, FAO and JWRC organized an International Workshop on the Domesticated Asian Elephant, from 5 to 10 February 2001. The Workshop was attended by 101 participants from 21 countries, and produced a number of recommendations. This publication constitutes the proceedings of the Workshop.

One of the recommendations is to improve the age-old existing registration systems or to establish new ones for the domesticated elephants in every range country, for example, by introducing modern methods such as a small memory chip containing the elephant's life history, embedded under the skin of each elephant. Such a registration system would be directly linked to a sophisticated database for better care and management of domesticated elephants. Improving socio-economic conditions for mahouts and elephants is another recommendation. Unless they are provided with new sources of income, the long-standing traditional techniques and practical knowledge on elephant handling will be largely lost forever. We are pleased to see that, as a result of the Workshop, efforts to establish a database are beginning and a network of concerned persons is in the formative stages.

Many issues regarding the domesticated Asian elephant are shared by their wild counterparts surviving in natural habitats that have been severely threatened by human activities. Except in India, their populations have been declining under the pressure of human-elephant conflicts, illegal poaching, etc. We can easily see that other wildlife living in the same habitat have been suffering from a similar plight. We strongly feel that modern human communities must find ways to co-exist with nature. Consideration must also be given to the other species that inhabit the planet.

We sincerely hope that this publication will help increase awareness of the conservation and management of nature in general, and will serve as a useful source of information and be a good reference guide for elephant managers, specialists, NGO groups, and donors seeking opportunities to improve the management and utilization of Asian elephants, in particular.

Taisitiroo Satoo

He Changchui


FAO Regional Representative for

Japan Wildlife Research Center

Asia and the Pacific

Top of Page Next Page