It’s true what they say about animals with big feet—they’ve got big ranges. Few animals fit that description better than the Asian elephant. At a workshop held in late October organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and WWF, elephant conservationists began to formulate a new strategy to help save Asian elephants across their range. The workshop was facilitated by the IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

To conduct a range-wide status review of the species, the conservationists will map all elephant populations, identify the ones in particular need of help, and highlight land areas that could provide links for elephant populations. The workshop participants discussed the need to develop a reliable monitoring system and to secure additional habitat for wild elephant populations.

At the workshop, Ajay Desai, co-chair of the SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group, emphasized that the consequences could be dire if elephant habitat were not better protected. “The Asian elephant requires much larger areas of natural range than any other terrestrial mammal in Asia,” he said. “In order to coexist with humans, we need to move from short-term mitigation measures to long-term land use planning, taking into account its biological needs. Otherwise we shall keep seeing the elimination of elephant population in large parts of its range.”

The draft strategy uses the new IUCN/SSC Species Conservation Planning Task Force’s guidelines officially launched at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona earlier this year. It will be reviewed and revised over the next three months and will eventually meet range-wide, regional, and national conservation objectives in reducing the critical threats for the endangered pachyderms in all 13 nations where Asian elephants range. “We are confident that the final strategy and the national action plans will promote on-the-ground conservation action and facilitate national implementation of conservation policy in favour of elephants across Asia,” said Simon Hedges, co-chair of the IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group and Asian Elephant Coordinator for WCS.