The Asian Captive Elephant Working Group is a group of dedicated elephant specialists, veterinarians, researchers, camp managers and conservationists from a range of backgrounds who have dedicated themselves to elephants.
Chatchote Thitaram DVM PhD
Dr Chatchote Thitaram is Assistant Professor in the Department of Companion Animals and Wildlife Clinics, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Thailand. He was awarded his PhD by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University, Netherlands, for the thesis ‘Elephant reproduction: improvement of breeding efficiency and development of a breeding strategy’. He received a diploma from the Thai board of Theriogenology from the veterinary council of Thailand.
His present work and research focuses on reproduction, breeding, genetics, medicine and management in Asian elephants. He is also the director of the Center of Excellence in Elephant Research and Education, Chiang Mai University, and a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC)’s Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG).
Khyne U Mar BVS MPhil MSc PhD FRVCS
Dr Khyne U Mar is currently the Project Co-coordinator of the Myanmar Elephant Research Project and an Honorary Research Fellow of the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, UK, a position she has held since 2009. She is also a Lecturer in Wild Animal Health at the Royal Veterinary College/ Zoological Society of London, UK. From 2002-2007 Dr Khyne was the Senior Consultant Veterinarian for the UK based elephant charity Elephant Family www.elephantfamily.org. Dr Khyne is a member of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group (IUCN), Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (IUCN) and the European Wildlife Disease Association
Janine L. Brown PhD
Dr. Janine L. Brown is head of the Endocrine Research Laboratory at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, and conducts reproductive and welfare research on elephants and other species (e.g., rhinos, felids, tapirs). She obtained her M.S. in 1978 and PhD in 1984 in Animal Sciences at Washington State University, and works towards increasing knowledge that will lead to better management and conservation of endangered species. Through her work, measuring hormones and other biomarkers in serum, plasma, urine, feces, hair and saliva, she has amassed an extensive database for more than four dozen species demonstrating the diversity of reproductive, health and stress response mechanisms. She is a world authority on elephant reproductive biology, and as the Reproductive Advisor to the Elephant Taxon Advisory Group, her laboratory plays a key role in ex situ management plans for Asian and African elephants in the U.S. She also conducts collaborative research in range countries, including Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, and provides advice and direct research assistance to improving management of captive elephants around the globe. She has over 250 peer-reviewed publications, and provides training to graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and interns to carry on this multidisciplinary work.
Joshua Plotnik PhD
Joshua Plotnik, PhD is a comparative psychologist and conservation behaviour researcher who studies the intelligence of elephants; he has been working with them in Thailand since 2006. Josh is currently interested in understanding how research on elephant cognition can be applied directly to the mitigation of human/elephant conflict. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and the Animal Behaviour and Conservation Program at Hunter College, the City University of New York. He is also the founder of Think Elephants International, a non-profit charity working to bridge the gaps between research, education, and conservation by using elephants as a conduit. Josh earned degrees from both Emory University (M.A. and PhD) and Cornell University (B.S.).
Susan Mikota DVM
Dr. Susan Mikota is the Director Veterinary Programs and Research for Elephant Care International (www.elephantcare.org), a non-profit organization that she also co-founded. Elephant Care International is dedicated to the healthcare, welfare, and conservation of elephants and to facilitating data sharing among elephant professionals. She has written numerous scientific articles and book chapters and co-edited Biology, Medicine, and Surgery of Elephants, the first modern veterinary textbook dedicated to elephants. Dr. Mikota has worked to improve the healthcare and welfare of elephants throughout Asia. She established the Nepal Elephant Healthcare and Tuberculosis Surveillance Program and assisted colleagues to implement the first elephant TB control program in an Asian elephant range country. Dr. Mikota is a member of the IUCN Asian Elephant and Wildlife Health Specialist Groups.
Sonja Luz DVM PhD
Dr Luz studied at the school of veterinary medicine in Hannover, Germany. After graduating in 1999 she did her PhD on the digestive physiology of Reticulated Pythons. While doing her PhD she worked as a locum veterinarian at WRS as well as in a position as assistant lecturer and researcher at the School of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover, Germany. In 2003 Dr Luz joined WRS as a full time veterinarian. In 2009 she left her senior veterinary position at the zoo to follow her passion to work in wildlife conservation medicine. Aside from supporting various wildlife medicine, conservation and capacity building projects in Southeast Asia, Dr Luz also spent time in South Asia where she was involved in projects addressing the health care, welfare and management of captive elephants.
Dr Luz re-joined Wildlife Reserves Singapore in 2011 where she currently holds the position of Director for Conservation, Research & Veterinary Services.
WRS is the holding company of award-winning attractions Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, River Safari and Singapore Zoo.
Dr Luz’ work currently focuses on conservation issues of the ASEAN region and her personal interest and expertise resides in: Zoo- and Wildlife medicine; Elephant health care, conservation and captive management; Animal welfare; Science communication and behaviour change theory; Reptile medicine; Conservation strategy planning and capacity building.
Carmen Rademaker, founder NAKA Elephant Foundation, gained a very well respected reputation as director of The Asian Elephant Foundation (TAEF). Working with TAEF has provided her a strong sense of realism about elephant projects in Asia. With NAKA Elephant Foundation she focuses on education, especially on the situation of captive elephants. Carmen has been living in Asia for more than 17 years, knows that elephant related matters can be sensitive and understands that network, relationships, trust and expertise are crucial elements in approaching the current elephant situation.
Khajohnpat Boonprasert DVM
Dr Khajohnpat Boonprasert is the clinical veterinarian at the Centre of Excellence in Elephant Research and Education, Chiang Mai University. He earned his Doctor of Veterinary medicine from Chiang Mai University in 2005 before spending 11 years at the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre, running the mobile vet clinic and the onsite hospital. Dr Khajohnpat became head of the Southern branch of the National Elephant Institute’s elephant hospital in 2015 and has spent 3 years leading the Aggressive and Mutsh control elephant unit of the TECC from 2008-2010. Dr Khajohnpat has multiple publications on elephant care and management including the first successful treatment of Elephant Endotheliotopic Herpes Virus (EEHV) in an Asian Elephant.
Annabel Lopez Perez
Anabel Lopez Perez did her studies of Biology in the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. She started to work at the Elephant Conservation Center in Laos in 2013. Her main job was to implement free roaming areas with the goal of increasing the social time of the elephants at the center. She is in charge of the management of the elephants, daily medical target training, observations, and enrichment. In 2015 she was part of the Elephant Caravan in Laos. Her job was to ensure the welfare and safety of the elephants during the march. Currently she is working on a protocol to introduce elephants from different captive backgrounds with the goal of creating elephant social groups. She is also working together with the mahouts to combine traditional and new techniques for the welfare of the elephants.
Thitibon ‘Cherry’ K. Plotnik, DVM
Dr Cherry is an elephant veterinarian with nearly ten years experience working with elephants in Thailand. She graduated from Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in 2008, and until 2014, was the senior veterinarian for the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in Chiang Rai. There, she was responsible for the care of more than 30 elephants. She also spent considerable time working at the elephant hospital at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang. Most recently, Cherry was senior veterinarian for the Treasure our Elephants Fund Foundation, which has been working to develop and coordinate the implementation of new Thai laws on the regulation of elephant ivory, animal welfare and elephant management. Cherry is currently Head of Elephant Affairs for Think Elephants International, a U.S. non-profit charity that focuses on linking research and education to positively influence elephant welfare and conservation.
Sophie completed her degree in Biological Science (Zoology) at Deakin University Melbourne in 2011 before travelling to Thailand in 2012 to follow her dream of working with Asian Elephants. Joining the team at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in Chiang Rai, Sophie worked as the Coordinator and then Manager of the elephant camp, overseeing all aspects of the daily running of the camp and the health and welfare of the camps 30 elephants. Sophie has worked on many of the foundation's projects including coordinating and facilitating capacity building workshops for local mahouts, vets and elephant camp owners on topics such as positive reinforcement target training, animal osteopathy and enrichment. Sophie’s areas of interest are training, enrichment and improving captive elephant management in traditional management systems.
Taweepoke Angkawanish DVM
Dr. Taweepoke Angkawanish achieved his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M) degree from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand in 1997. He has worked as the vet in charge of the elephant hospital and mobile elephant clinic at the National Elephant Institute, Forest Industry Organization, Lampang Province. He also holds positions as Head of the Elephant rescue unit and Elephant rehabilitation center and Head of Elephant research center. Additionally, he currently works in the Royal Elephant Stable including Huahin, Skolnakorn and Lampang elephant stable. His experience in elephant welfare and clinical work has given him a strong interest in infectious diseases, especially Tuberculosis, in elephants. Several national and international publications by Dr Taweepoke and his team has arrived from questions occurred during his work with Thai elephants.
Anthropologist, teacher, photographer, writer, art gallery owner, Joanna Maclean taught in her native country New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, and England before beginning her International Red Cross career that spanned 28 years. From 2002-2005, she was Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Delegation in Myanmar, and she also worked in Africa and the Caribbean/Central America. In the Geneva HQ, she held a number of Department Head posts and was a leading figure in the Movement’s global events and campaigns over a period of 15 years from 1988-2002. As an independent consultant, she continues to do some training and short-term assignments for humanitarian organisations, including another three-month stint in Myanmar from September to December 2013.
Joanna has recently published a book “Two Eggs and a Lemon” about her years working and living in Myanmar and is presently designing a book of her photo portraits from Myanmar.
From 2004 to 2011 she was co-owner of La Luna Gallery in Chiang Mai, Thailand specialising in S.E. Asian contemporary art, then from 2011 to 2016 she was joint owner/director of Colour Factory, operating shops in and around Chiang Mai. One of their main products was the painted elephants of the internationally known ‘Elephant Parade’, and through this company and their Foundation, she became closely involved with elephant conservation and welfare.
In her capacity as Consultant to the 'Naka Foundation,' which is dedicated to the conservation and well-being of elephants, Joanna lectures to school and university students and to service groups in Thailand on issues related to elephant conservation. She is a founding member of the Asian Captive Elephant Working Group (ACEWG).
She is also an Advisor to ‘Skills for Life,’ a foundation which provides vocational training and job opportunities for underprivileged youth from Hill Tribes around Chiang Mai.
She continues to enjoy traveling and photography in her spare time and in combining these interests and her experience has worked as a lecturer aboard cruise ships in Asia and the Americas.
John saw his first captive elephant, Sham Shere Bahadur, on the lawn of Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge on the 1st of October 1999. Despite being surrounded by many fascinating things in Chitwan National Park he was quickly fascinated by elephants, not only the creatures themselves but by the complex relationships with their mahouts.
Coming to Thailand in 2003 specifically to manage elephants exposed John to a new set of challenges faced by elephants and people from a similar tradition but cut off from their jungle roots. Setting up first the award winning Elephant Camp for Anantara & Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, the first commercial operations to replace elephant saddles with bare back riding, and then the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) to bring street begging young elephants back to their natural habitat.
As well as helping wild elephants stay wild GTAEF now concentrates on helping mahouts and elephants adapt to the realities of modern life in South East Asia. John continues to lead both the Foundation and the Camps as well as now overseeing Sustainability and Conservation for the Minor Hotel Group, his employers since 2003.
Sebastien Duffillot graduated from Toulouse Business School MBA programme in 1994. After spending a year and a half at the French Embassy in Bangkok as assistant to the regional advisor for scientific and technical cooperation, he settled in Laos in 1996 where he created Kinnary Advertising, a graphic design studio in the capital, Vientiane.
In 2001, he co-founded ElefantAsia, a France-based non-profit to protect the endangered Asian elephants, primarily in Laos. In 2002, he organised the Elephant Caravan, a 1300km long march with 4 elephants across Laos, from Champassak in the South up to Luang Prabang in the North. The objective of the caravan was to raise local and international awareness about the plight of the elephants in a country once known as Lan Xang, the Land of a Million Elephants.
With ElefantAsia and the National health Center of the Department of Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry, he implemented the first nation-wide census of captive elephants. Mobile clinics travelled the country to microchip and provide vet care to all working elephants while building up a statistical database providing vital information about the condition of the country’s remaining 450 elephants. Mahouts (elephant handlers) were taught first aid techniques while provided with an ElefantAsia-FAO published Elephant Care Manual.
The team also created the Sayaboury Elephant Festival in 2007 and managed it until 2012 when it was handed over to the province’s government. ElefantAsia also raised awareness through a national environmental education campaign consisting of books, posters, movies and elephant mobile libraries aimed at schoolchildren living in and around elephant populated areas.
In 2010 He teamed up with Inthy Deuansawan (Inthira Group, Green Discovery) and Jean-François Reumaux (The Gibbon Experience) to create the Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury. Starting with 1 elephant and 6 staff, the Center now shelters 29 elephants and employs 62 staff. It is set on the banks of the Nam Tien Lake on a 530 hectares protected forest.
In 2015, Sebastien organised a second elephant caravan from Sayaboury to Luang Prabang with 20 elephants to mark the importance of elephants as a defining component of Lao natural and cultural heritages. The caravan ended its journey in Luang Prabang as the city was celebrating its 20th anniversary as a world Heritage city.
Sebastien is now expanding the Conservation Center’s activities to include the conservation of wild elephants in the Nam Phouy National Park. The new reserve project is strongly focusing on community based tourism as a method to improve livelihoods and include local people in the conservation process.
Meanwhile the Center has development projects in Nepal and Myanmar.
Our Board of Advisors:
Dr. Christopher Stremme DVM, Veterinarian and Elephant Expert, Indonesia
Dr. Preecha Phuangkum DVM, Senior Veterinarian, Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation, Thailand
Mr. Richard C. Lair, Elephant Expert, Thailand/USA
Mr Theerapat Trungprakan (Pat) Founder and Chair, Chiang Mai Elephant Alliance, Thailand
Dr. Parntep Ratanakorn DVM, Chairman of the Board Zoological Parks Organisation, Thailand
Dr. Boripat Sirianoorat DVM, Director of Conservation and Research, Zoological Parks Organisation, Thailand