First Elephant Training Workshops in Thailand, India and Sri Lanka

To date, 12 workshops on elephant care and management had been carried out. Four workshops were hold in Vienna at the Schönbrunn zoo, four workshops in Sri Lanka, three in Thailand and one in Kerala – India.

The first workshop was hold in March 1999, in close collaboration with Heidi Riddle and the Veterinarians from the IZW Berlin. Because of the great demand, a second workshop with 55 participants was held in November, 1999. Elephant experts (keepers, veterinarians and curators) from all over Europe and also the USA participated. The IZW team organised a workshop in Bangkok in 2000, where the Vienna team joined (Dr. W. Zenker, F. Mohlin and Dr. H. Schwammer) regarding medical treatment, foot- and skincare. In succession we received an invitation by the dean of the Veterinary University of Bangkok Dr. Parntep Ratanakorn, to hold two specialised workshops on elephant management in Thailand (2001 and 2002). It was at the workshop in 2001, that the “trunk-wash” method could be established in Thailand as a routine program for TB tests. Since than, due to increasing demand and invitations, workshops are arranged several times a year in Asia and Vienna. The regular team consists of Dr. Harald Schwammer, the veterinarians Dr. Wolfang Zenker and Dip. Tz. Thomas Voracek, head keeper Fredrik Mohlin as well as the whole keeper crew. For specialised workshops we invite veterinary specialist Dr. Thomas Hildebrand, Dr. Frank Göritz and Dr. Angelika Hinke, as lectors.

With the program of our workshops we try to reach a bride audience from mahouts, veterinarians and managers from elephant camps in Asia to zoologists, veterinarians and keepers in Europe. The application areas are facility design, breeding management, artificial insemination, elephant handling methods, safety aspects, foot- and skincare, herpes and TB-pox, routinely medical attendance’s as well as research and conservation. The workshops are then specially adjusted to the target groups, but because of the wide spectrum of themes it is also possible to bring together keepers, veterinarians, curators and researchers in one and the same workshop, which usually ends up with very interesting and enriching discussions of practitioners and theoreticians.The workshops are organised as theoretical and practical modules. The theoretical modules give the basic and theoretical background and are presented as power point presentations. The basic module comprises topics like the basic requests for an up-to-date keeping of elephants, standards, guidelines and manuals from all over the world, safety aspects, management methods (hands-on, protected and restricted contact and hands off), advantages and disadvantages of these methods, restraint chutes, behavioural enrichment, construction of masterplans (from enclosure tot the animal program) and different approaches of zoos, elephant camps and sanctuaries are presented.

Another module gives the theoretical background for training and veterinary procedures which will be expatiated within the practical modules, where veterinarians and keepers give demonstrations with the elephants. These demonstrations regularly include, foot- and skincare, trunk-wash, taking blood samples, X-raying, dental treatment, ultrasonic examination with references to reproductive health status, the state of development and activity of the internal genital organs vestibule, vagina, cervix, uterus and ovaries as well as semen collection and artificial insemination. Further veterinary aspects and advanced methods include the use for chemical drugs for sedation, herpes-virus infection, tuberculosis and pox disease, nutrition related diseases, blood sample program and microchip technique. Another focal point is set on how to build up a breeding group, on the monitoring of the cycle, pregnancy and growth, on the importance of birth reports and of course on the artificial insemination. If possible it is always interesting to introduce research projects and point out the importance of behavioural monitoring. It always concerns to the author that conservation aspects like managing populations, in situ and ex situ programs and welfare issues can be addressed to the audience, especially in Asia but also in Europe. The increasing Human-Elephant-Conflict defined the urgent need of awareness and educational programs for the local communities around the Nationalparks of Udawalawe and Yala. This covers teacher and school-children education, as well as awareness programs for adults in the local communities. We try to counter the barrier of communication, which we believe kept many elephant keepers and also zoologists and veterinarians from several countries from participating in workshops so far, in providing translators if necessary. Thus the workshops can be hold in any language so that education and training of people caring for elephants is no matter of language ability. Concerning the workshops in Asia we experienced hospitality and eager for knowledge which surprised us in the beginning. Although the natives have been handling elephants for several thousand years, they attentively follow our lectures, ask many questions which initialise long and interesting discussions where all of us exchanged experiences. For these workshops we bring all the important equipment with us.


In founding the International Elephant Management Academy we mainly aim to boost the dialog between elephant experts from Asia and Europe and we will take all efforts to improve the knowledge about elephant husbandry and in that way improve the life of elephants under human care.

Workshops performed by Dr. Harald Schwammer and Dr. Wolfgang Zenker
at the Dehiwala Zoo in Colombo and at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in 2003 and 2004

Module 1: Basics

1.1 Basic requests for an up-to-date keeping of elephants
1.2 Standards, guidelines und manuals from all over the world
1.3 Safety for humans and animals
1.4 Management methods
1.4.1 Hands on
1.4.2 Protected contact
1.4.3 Restricted contact
1.4.4 Hands off
1.4.5 Advantages and disadvantages of the methods
1.4.6 Restraint chute
1.4.7 Behavioural enrichment
1.4.8 Bull management
1.5 Construction of a master plan: from the enclosure to the animal program
1.6 Different approach of zoos, elephant camps and sanctuaries

Module 2: Basic program for training and veterinary procedures

2.1 Routine measures for care
2.1.1 Foot- and skin care
2.1.2 Taking blood samples
2.1.3 X-raying
2.1.4 Dental treatment
2.1.5 Ultrasound
2.1.6 Trunk-wash

Module 3: Advanced methods – veterinarian aspects

3.1 Chemical drugs use for sedation
3.2 Elephant treatment in general
3.3 Herpes-virus infection
3.3 The problem of tuberculosis
3.5 Pox disease in elephants
3.6 Nutrition related diseases
3.7 Nutrition, Vitamins and minerals

Module 4: Breeding program

4.1 Building up a breeding group
4.2 Monitoring: cycle, pregnancy, growth
4.3 Birth-report
4.4 Artificial Insemination (AI)

Module 5: Research projects

5.1 Aims
5.2 Behaviour Monitoring and Chronobiology
5.3 Reproduction management
5.4 Diseases control

Module 6: Conservation

6.1 Managing Populations
6.2 In situ and ex situ programs