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May 30-June 5, 2019 Dubbo Photo News

PROFILE

Elephant conservation is up to all of us

ELEPHANT conservation might seem like a feat best left to the professionals, but keepers from the Taronga Western Plains Zoo are encouraging everyone to do their bit for the largest living land mammal. While the zoo continues its successful Asian elephant breeding program, which has seen two new calves born since it was implemented, it’s up to the rest of us to stay privy to any illegal activity which might put the creatures in danger. The zoo’s promotions and publicity coordinator, Mandy Turner, said conservation isn’t just about breeding, it’s an “education process”. “It’s about educating people about an elephant’s plight,” she told Dubbo Photo News. “If you go overseas, don’t get your photo taken with an elephant and don’t go to a tourist park where they are riding elephants because ultimately, that’s not conservation for animals.” Taronga Western Plains Zoo has partnered with the Wildlife Witness App which allows people to report illegal animal activity. “If people see something that they think is a bit odd, like ivory being sold in a jewellery store, they can drop a pin and Traffic (the parent organisation) will investigate it,” Ms Turner said. “Even just having your photo taken with an elephant on the street in Thailand, for example, should be reported because they’re just basically using that animal for commercial gain and it’s not in the animal’s best welfare.” Poaching and deforestation has meant there are only 40,000 Asian elephants left in the world with eight of them currently calling Taronga Western Plains Zoo home. The youngest, Sabai, is about to turn one, and the eldest, Burma, who was a former circus elephant, recently celebrating his 60th birthday. And the herd is set to grow. “Hopefully, as time goes on, we will welcome more little calves,” Ms Turner said.

Q&A Christina Nicolas I am a full-time Elephant Keeper at Taronga Western Plains Zoo (TWPZ) I started volunteering in 2016 on the elephant team, and got my first job as a casual at the beginning of 2017. I received my permanent position halfway through 2018 on elephants. Every day is different, from different tasks needing to be completed to working with different team members or with different elephants. Most days right now consist of me building relationships with the elephants and learning training and conditioning techniques. My current focus is bath routines and behaviours with the herd females, Porntip and Thong Dee My favourite thing about working at Taronga Western Plains Zoo is getting to know the elephants. As I get more com-

fortable being around the elephants, they get to see my personality come through each day and they slowly show me more of their individual personalities too – it’s a side of the elephants that

you don’t get to see when you aren’t around them every day. I started my journey in 2016 when I studied a Certificate III in captive animals at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. I

didn’t have a real interest in elephants until I did my work placement week and had a great time with the team. That’s when I started volunteering monthly on the elephants section, travelling up from Sydney. I have developed a fondness for elephants, but I also have a lot of interest in Fallow Deer and Tasmanian Devils – I have had the opportunity to work with both of these species as well. Outside of work, I like to keep as active as I can. I love to play soccer and go to the gym. Taronga strives to educate. I love to speak to the public and to educate others on elephants and to share the work Taronga has done for elephant conservation and what we continue to do for species in relation to conservation and insurance populations. PHOTO: DUBBO PHOTO NEWS/EMY LOU PHOTOGRAPHY

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