WWF calls for ‘Elly Allies,’ inviting collaborators at launch of new regional Asian elephant initiative

Posted on August, 12 2023

Wild elephants are in need of urgent conservation across Southeast Asia and China

On this World Elephant Day, WWF is launching an ambitious alliance to secure a future in which loss and fragmentation of elephant habitats is reduced, people and elephants live side by side in a sustainable way, and wild elephant populations are stable.


World Elephant Day was founded in Thailand just over a decade ago to raise the profile of these pachyderms globally, and to garner support to rally around the issues they face. With a philosophy of collective effort at its core, World Elephant Day is meant to galvanize a powerful partnership of governments, the private sector, civil society and citizens to support conservation efforts for wild elephants. 


“The initiative is founded in this spirit of World Elephant Day, which is partnership and collective action,” said Natalie Phaholyothin, CEO, WWF-Thailand. “It acknowledges that the challenges faced by elephants in our region cannot be solved in isolation.”


Asian elephants are globally endangered, but are particularly threatened in Southeast Asia and China, with only about 8,000-11,000 wild Asian elephants spread across eight range countries - Cambodia, southern China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. Habitat loss and fragmentation, human-elephant conflict, poaching and isolation of small populations have resulted in sharp declines across the region, with some national populations now estimated as being in the low hundreds, with a few individuals isolated from all other elephants in some cases.


“Asian elephants are both physically large, and occupy an enormous space in the cultural imagination and identity of the region,” said Lan Mercado, Regional Director of WWF-Asia Pacific. “We must work to reverse the downward trend while managing their interaction with people so that local communities who have existed alongside them don’t suffer disproportionately. We need Elly Allies.”


In order to halt these alarming regional population declines and create an environment of sustainable coexistence with humans, WWF aims to work with key players who can positively influence the future of elephants in Southeast Asia and China. The goal of the regional initiative is to work together to replicate successful models of conservation that benefit both elephants and people.


One example is the “living landscape” approach trialed in Sabah, Malaysia, where a private agricultural company is working with WWF and the local government to ensure habitat connectivity and ample food sources for the native Bornean elephants. This means less crop loss for local communities and the company, and improved habitats for elephants and other wildlife.


“Elephants have been a part of the landscape of Asia for millennia and have an innate right to exist,” said Nilanga Jayasinghe, WWF’s Focal Point for Asian Elephants. “They are a majestic keystone species that bring benefits to people and other wildlife in their habitats, but more than anything, they have intrinsic value as the largest land mammal in Asia. Conserving elephants is not only an act of maintaining balance within their ecosystems and preserving cultural values, but it’s about giving them a chance to survive and thrive in the wild.”


WWF has been working on wild elephant conservation in Southeast Asia and China for many years, specifically through the Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy (AREAS) programme from 2000 to 2015. The Asian Elephant Alliance will build on this work, ongoing work within range countries and the work of countless other actors, to secure elephant habitats, improve human-elephant conflict management, combat poaching, and improve our understanding of the current status of elephants in Southeast Asia and China.


Join WWF in its efforts and become an Elly Ally by supporting Asian elephant conservation, learning more about this amazing species, and raising awareness. 


To join WWF’s Asian Elephants Alliance: EllyAlly@wwfint.org

For more information: panda.org/AsianElephant

An Asian Elephant Herd in Myanmar's side of the Dawna Tenasserim Landscape
© Christy Williams / WWF