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The Nepalese Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus): Infectious disease prevention and mitigation initiative: an update and review

Miller, C.A.J., Warren, K.ORCID: 0000-0002-9328-2013, Holyoake, C.S., Robertson, I.D.ORCID: 0000-0002-4255-4752, Manandhar, S., Shrestha, K., Dhakal, M. and Karmacharya, D. (2013) The Nepalese Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus): Infectious disease prevention and mitigation initiative: an update and review. In: Wildlife Disease Association Australasian Section Annual Conference, 29 September - 4 October, Grampians, Vic, Australia.


The IUCN Red List categorizes the Asian elephant as endangered, citing a drastic decline in the global population. Once widespread in Nepal, wild elephants are now limited to a few protected areas, and conservation of the species is of paramount concern. Decline in numbers predisposes this species to the impacts of such disease, through loss of genetic diversity, population fragmentation and increased interactions between humans, captive and wild populations. Of particular concern is the morbidity and mortality caused by tuberculosis (resulting from infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) species) and endotheliotrophic elephant herpes vims (EEHV), both of which present a growing threat to the health and viability of Asian elephant populations worldwide. Tuberculosis is well documented in Nepal, and previous research has laid foundations for control and management of the disease. However, further research and recommendations are required, particularly to improve diagnostic techniques and identify and minimize disease risk factors.

The Nepal Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) Infectious Disease Mitigation and Prevention Initiative began in 2012 as a collaborative post-graduate research project, expanding into an ongoing initiative based at the Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal (CMDN). Research and management is focused on Chitwan and Bardia National Parks, where the majority of Nepal's captive and wild populations reside. The initiative is endorsed by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (Nepal), with technical support from the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) and Elephant Care International (ECI), and with academic expertise from Murdoch University, Tufts University, Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and the Smithsonian Institute. The initiative aims to identify and minimize infectious disease risk factors at the captive-wild and captive-human interface, with particular focus on tuberculosis and EEHV in Nepal's captive and wild elephant populations. By controlling disease at the human-elephant and captive-wild interface, we seek to prevent transmission of disease to wildlife populations, and in the case of tuberculosis, to humans. Research aims to build upon existing studies through adopting a One Health approach to fill important knowledge gaps in disease prevalence, diagnosis and epidemiology, to identify management improvements, and to empower stakeholders through conservation education, community outreach and in-country capacity building. The purpose of this presentation is to update the research community and review the initiative's achievements over the past year, and to make recommendations for future directions to mitigate and prevent infectious diseases and facilitate a holistic conservation management plan for the preservation of the Asian elephant. It is hoped that findings may be applicable to other elephant range countries, and to zoological collections.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
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