World Wildlife Fund’s Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy: In Pursuit of Partnerships
Throughout South Asia, Indochina, and Southeast Asia, populations of Asian elephants and of the three species of Asian rhinoceros (greater Asian one-horned, Sumatran, Javan) cling to survival in some of the few remaining habitats that sustain them. The future of these species is clearly at risk, as they live in a rapidly changing environment that they must share with humans struggling for sustainable livelihoods.
In 1999, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) began implementing the Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy (AREAS) program, a comprehensive conservation framework targeting priority landscapes in South Asia, Indochina, and Southeast Asia. This program grew out of the recognition that conservation success for these endangered large mammal species will only be possible through a landscape-based approach that goes beyond isolated protected areas and includes the surrounding landscapes while addressing a range of land-use practices. In an ambitious program that brings together cutting-edge conservation biology with trade monitoring, socioeconomic analysis, creative land-use planning, and policy advocacy, AREAS is cause for renewed hope for dwindling populations of these threatened species. The strategy aims to conserve as much diversity as possible in elephant and rhino populations, together with their adaptations to different habitat types.
Thirteen priority landscapes form the initial priority portfolio for WWF’s Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy. Included in these priority landscapes are five sites in South Asia (Central Terai, Western Terai, Nilgiris, Kaziranga/Karbi-Anglong, and Arunchal/Assam/Namdapha); three in Indochina (Cat Tien, the Forests of the Lower Mekong, and Tenasserim/Western Forest Complex); and five in Southeast Asia (Sabah/Kalimantan, Northern Peninsular Malaysia, Riau, Bukit Barisan Selatan, and Ujung Kulon). Within these key habitats, WWF and it partners work to: restore and secure habitat; strengthen antipoaching efforts; mitigate conflicts over resources to benefit both humans and wildlife; facilitate creative land-use planning to solve problems facing wildlife and people; translocate rhinoceros to strengthen existing populations and establish new ones; address wildlife trade issues; encourage sustainable approaches to forest management; and collect and analyze ecologic data to improve management strategies for Asian elephants and the three species of Asian rhinoceros.
This program is based on partnerships across Asia and elsewhere. In the U.S., major partners to date include the USFWS, the IRF, and WCS. WWF is interested in having more AZA-accredited zoos join the Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy’s worldwide team.