Category Archives: India

Elephants in the Coffee

The Asian Elephant population is down to just 30,000 in its native habitat of India and southeast Asia. The primary threat for this species is loss of habitat.

This week the award winning film Elephants in the Coffee, produced by Dr. Thomas Grant and D.K. Bhaskar screens in New York, NY at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival. For a schedule of films, speakers and to attend visit:

‘Elephants in the Coffee’ shows how growth of coffee plantations
​ in Southern India led to deadly conflicts between humans and elephants. For more information about this splendid

For more information about this award winning film visit:




Vultures: Vilified but Vital For Healthy Ecosystems


Picture a vulture and you’ll most likely have a hard time separating these gawky creatures with the social stigmas they hold, long being reviled as portents of death. Still, these ungainly birds play a crucial role in maintaining our ecosystems and well-being, so citizens should be as concerned as scientists are to know that vultures in some parts of the world are quickly disappearing, according to a recent University of Utah study.

Many vulture species are now declining or even close to extinction due to concentrated toxins in the carrion they eat. Such toxins often have widespread impacts on a vulture population, as dozens if not hundreds of vultures tend to swarm and feast on a single carcass. Once vultures grow scarce, they leave the field open for other scavengers to flourish, species that bring with them the potential to carry dangerous bacteria and viruses from carcasses into heavily populated cities.

88% of threatened vulture species are impacted by the presence of poisons within carrion. In North America, only 22 California condors remained by 1982, due to their consumption of toxic lead bullet fragments left in the bodies of hunted animals  However, intense conservation efforts have since helped the species grow to over 400 who inhabit California, Arizona, Utah and Baja California, Mexico.Similarly, more than 95% of India’s vultures had disappeared by the early 2000s, which was  traced to diclofenac, a drug that relieved pain in cattle, but proved deadly to vultures who flocked to cattle carcasses; fortunately, this drug was banned through international coordination efforts, and the birds have slowly increased.

Now, the vulture crisis is centered in sub-Saharan Africa, where pest-control poisons are so potent that they have been affecting birds, mammals and insects alike on a massive scale. For instance, in 2007 an elephant carcass poisoned in Namibia killed around 600 vultures. These vultures in Africa are also the direct victims of poachers who poison carcasses specifically to silence the birds who might give away the location of illegally killed animals.

Declining vulture populations will have negative consequences for human health as they make way for foragers like dogs, rats, and crows, all of whom have more frequent contact with humans than relatively-solitary vultures. Vultures are highly efficient carrion consumers, often finding and eating carcasses within an hour after death, before decay really sets in; plus, vultures’ stomachs are highly acidic, thus killing most bacteria or viruses present in carrion. In these ways, vultures help prevent diseases from dead animals spreading to human populations. However, other scavengers without these features could easily pass along those diseases to humans, as many are entrenched in cities. Following the decline of vultures, India feral dog count increased by around seven million and was linked to a rabies outbreak that killed 48,000 people from 1992-2006.

Vulture populations can be restored through careful and collaborative efforts by the international community, as evidenced by the story of California condor. However, it is important that these efforts start now if we want to retain a creature which, though vilified for its appearance and its eating habits, plays a vital role in regulating the spread of bacteria and viruses and in maintaining healthy ecosystems and human populations, whether or not we are aware of how beneficial these scavengers are.

Source: Buechley, Evan et al. “Why vultures matter – and what we lose if they’re gone.” 5 May 2016.


Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
Biodiversity & Wildlife Crime Conference
Christopher J. Gervais, F.R.G.S.
Founder & CEO
Twitter: @WCFF_org
Instagram: @wcff_org
LinkedIn: Wildlife Conservation Film Festival

The forgotten Dhole


The Dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a wild canid that are efficient predators and communal pack hunters. These rust-coloured carnivores roam the jungles and montane forests of Central and East Asia.  They are the only species in the Cuon genus.

According to the  IUCN Red List, there are only 949 to 2,215 breeding dholes left in the wild. This number is less than the world’s breeding tigers. Dholes have been mostly ignored by conservationists, researchers and the global public. They are a forgotten predator. Dhole’s are surprisingly small. At just 12-18 kilograms, dholes are 30 to 50% the size of your average wolf, making them smaller than many medium-sized dogs.

“Compared to a tiger, a dhole is not very ‘sexy,’” said Kate Jenks, a conservation biologist with the Minnesota Zoo who has spent nine years trapping, collaring and studying dholes in Thailand. “They tend to get overlooked by scientists and conservationists that are more interested in tigers and leopards that live in the same area.”


The species roams regions inhabited by tigers, snow leopard, bears, wolves and leopards. Competition for prey and space can bring dholes into encounters with these other apex carnivores. Observers have captured videos of dholes harassing and holding their own against tigers. 

Dholes inhabit some of the most threatened, degraded and disconnected forest landscapes on the planet. The rainforests of Southeast Asia have seen unprecedented destruction over the past fifty years for palm oil, paper, rubber, timber, mining and other commodities. Where forests haven’t been destroyed, they have been fragmented by booming human populations, roads and ever-expanding development projects.

In addition to forest loss, dholes have suffered from a decline in their prey. Because dholes are hyper-carnivores that need relatively high prey numbers to raise litters and sustain large pack sizes. Overhunting and snaring has decimated many prey species across southern Asia. In fact, the region is known for so-called empty forests syndrome. Here, forests are largely emptied of any large-to-medium-sized mammal or bird, wiped out by hunting both for food and the Traditional Chinese Medicine industry.


There are very few conservation programmes focusing specifically on dholes, but one of them is Ambika Khatiwada’s in the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA). in Nepal. Khatiwada is working with locals to live more peaceably with wild canid neighbors.

Khatiwada is also working with the local council on implementing a community managed livestock insurance scheme. Under this program, herders pay to have their livestock insured against attacks by predators, in this case dholes and snow leopards.


As one of the region’s top predators, dholes have a potent ecological influence all the way down the food chain. While this has been largely unstudied in regards to dholes, research on other top predators – like wolves – has shown how these animals actually create more biodiverse and productive ecosystems by keeping prey species in check and in hiding.

Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
& Biodiversity Conference

Christopher J. Gervais, FRGS
Founder & CEO
Twitter: @WCFF_org
Instagram: @wcff_2014
LinkedIn: Wildlife Conservation Film Festival


Wildlife Conservation Film Festival

WCFF logo

Come to New York, NY October 13-19 for a week of extraordinary films, workshops, international filmmakers, red carpet gala and to meet some of the world’s leading wildlife conservationists. Included are dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Patricia C. Wright, Dr. Birute Galdikas, Nan Hauser, Dr. Mireya Mayor. More than 15 international wildlife documentary filmmakers and from National Geographic filmmakers, Bob Poole and David Hamlin


Elephants in the Room
produced by Peter Lamberti of Aquavision TV Productions in South Africa
will make its New York debut at the 2014 WCFF

Great Migrations: Episode 3: Survival of the Fastest NGC-US: Episode Code: 3592 NGCI: IBMS - 023560

Zebras On The Move
Produced by Oscar Portillo of Explora Films in Spain
will also make its New York debut

Get your tickets now for all 18 film series held at the NYIT Auditorium on Broadway during the week and the Red Carpet Gala & Awards Ceremony at 583 Park Avenue

Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, Inc.
Christopher J. Gervais, Founder & CEO
Twitter: @WCFF_org
Instagram: WCFF_org
Skype: christopher.j.gervais
LinkedIn: Wildlife Conservation Film Festival

Sunder the elephant is FREE!


After years of being chained and violently beaten, the fourteen-year-old elephant Sunder is finally safe in his new home at the Bannerghatta Biological Park in Bangalore, India.

For six years, Sunder was chained and abused at the Jyotiba temple in Kolhapur, India. In 2012, the Maharashtra Forest Department and the Project Elephant division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued orders to retire Sunder to a sanctuary. Sadly for Sunder, the orders were never carried out, and instead Maharashtra Member of the Legislative Assembly Vinay Kore, who had given the elephant as a “gift” to the temple, sent him to live in an old, dark poultry shed where until recently he has been chained and subjected to numerous beatings.


An undercover investigation conducted by the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals India (PETA India) had resulted in footage of a mahout (handler) violently beating Sunder with a thick wooden pole. The video revealed a malnourished-looking Sunder, chained by two legs, writhing in pain and struggling to stand as the mahout strikes him repeatedly with the pole.

As a result if the investigation, “the Supreme Court of India passed a judgment in favour of PETA India by ordering the implementation of a 7 April 2014 Bombay High Court order to release the well-known and much-abused young elephant Sunder to an elephant care centre in Bangalore by no later than 15 June,” stated PETA India. “The Supreme Court also ordered that the Secretary, Revenue and Forests Department, Maharashtra State will be responsible for the implementation of its order and must strictly meet the deadline.”

This decision was supported by celebrities Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson, Celina Jaitly, Gulshan Grover and many others who took to Twitter, met with concerned government officials, and helped in other ways with the campaign for his release.

A few days ago, Sunder was freed and began the journey to his new home. “We are overjoyed to report that the much abused young elephant Sunder was placed on a truck by a team of experts who had travelled to Kolhapur to work with the Maharashtra Forest Department and is now being driven carefully and slowly to his new home as per the order of the Supreme Court of India,” said Peta India.

Despite the court’s decision, and the fact that Sunder was now free to be relocated, the cruel and vicious people who abused Sunder all those years did not let him begin his journey in peace. Even to the last moment, they tried to find ways to hurt the terrified elephant.

“The transition was not easy. This progress was made after a great deal of struggle, including dealing with sabotage by screaming men, near rioting, tires which were punctured with nails by those who wanted to keep Sunder in Kolhapur to endure a life of abuse and a mahout (elephant handler) who shouted the wrong commands in order to agitate Sunder. Even now, a motorcycle gang is following the truck, despite police protection. The police and Maharashtra Forest Department officials as well as the experts who travelled to Kolhapur to assist with Sunder’s move are travelling with Sunder,” said PETA India.

After all the turmoil getting Sunder away from his abusers, he is now peacefully residing at a 49.5-hectare forested area care centre for elephants. As soon as he has settled down and his serious leg wound caused by long-term painfully tight chaining has healed, he will join a herd of thirteen other elephants. The sanctuary is enclosed by fencing, which allows the elephants to roam freely and wade in the ponds and streams that spread out throughout the Bannerghatta Biological Park.



 Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, Inc.
Christopher J. Gervais, Founder & CEO
LinkedIn: Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
Twitter: @WCFF_org
Instagram: WCFF_org