Elephant Rhino Symposium

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Presented by the International Elephant Foundation and the International Rhino Foundation.  Hosted by the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

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  • Introduction






      Increasing pressures on wild populations of elephants and rhinos are having a devastating effect on their numbers. Human/wildlife conflicts, loss of habitat and poaching for the illegal wildlife trade in elephant tusks and rhino horn are all contributing factors in the rapid decline of wild populations. Through the ongoing work of zoos, scientific and field research, and massive efforts to stem the illegal wildlife trade, there is increasing hope for wild populations, but it is an ongoing effort.

      This August, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and our International Conservation Center will host the International Elephant & Rhino Conservation & Research Symposium. Co-hosted by the International Elephant Foundation and International Rhino Foundation, elephant and rhino conservationists from around the world are coming to present conservation projects and research results on field conservation, conflict mitigation, captive and wildlife management, health, nutrition, trade issues and reproduction.

      We invite you to join us, mingle with your peers from around the world, and share your experiences and information to enhance the conservation of these magnificent animals.

  • Registration






      For registration information, please call 412-370-1964.

  • Schedule
      Monday, August 26
      • AZA Rhino Advisory Group meeting, open to all
         8 a.m.-5 p.m.
      • Icebreaker
         6 p.m.

      Tuesday, August 27
      • Presentations
        8 a.m.
      • Movie Night: National Geographic's "Battle for the Elephants"
        with John Heminway
      Location TBA

      Wednesday, August 28
        8 a.m.
      • Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium Day
      1-9 p.m.
        Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
      Elephant/Rhino Immobilization Workshop
        By registration only, limited to 40 participants
        4-6 p.m.

      Thursday, August 29
      • International Conservation Center Day
      Sponsored by Somerset Trust
        Presentations and tours
        8 a.m. - 8 p.m.

      Friday, August 30
      • Presentations
        8 a.m.

      Saturday, August 31
      • Trip to visit The Wilds
      By registration only
        Time TBA






  • Renowned Speakers

    • Natasha Anderson
      Zimbabwe Rhino Monitoring Coordinator
      Lowveld Rhino Trust


      Australian born Natasha Anderson came to Zimbabwe in 1996 as a volunteer worker after completing a Master of Environmental Studies degree at the University of Melbourne. She has been based in the South East Lowveld throughout her sixteen years in Zimbabwe. Her initial work focused on natural resource management and education projects in the Maranda Communal Lands working under the Mwenezi Rural District Council. Post 2000 she became involved with the Lowveld Rhino Trust (LRT) when she offered some of her spare time to help with monitoring rhinos – especially those sharing their range with newly settled farmers in the Bubiana Conservancy. Over time she developed opportunities to mesh her interest in education with rhino conservation and under the Southern Africa Development Community Regional Program for Rhino Conservation, developed education support materials called the Rhino Cards. These materials form the foundation of LRTs current education program, which Natasha helps manage along with her monitoring work on a much expanded population of rhinos in Bubye and Save Valley Conservancies.

      Udayan Borthakur
      Head of Wildlife Genetics Programme - Aaranyak


      As a Wildlife Biologist, Udayan Borthakur, is the Head of Wildlife Genetics Programme at Aaranyak, a society for biodiversity conservation in northeast India (www.aaranyak.org). He has studied population genetics of various mammals, including the Greater One-horned Rhino in India and the Javan and Sumatran Rhino in Indonesia. One of his primary rhino projects is the genetic census of the Greater One-horned Rhino in Gorumara National Park, West Bengal, India. As part of a groundbreaking genetics project undertaken by Aaranyak with financial support from Asian Rhino Project, Australia, Udayan used dung DNA analysis based techniques to determine the minimum number of rhinos present in Gorumara and to understand the contemporary extent of genetic diversity in the population. In addition he has also been involved with studies on the population genetics of the Royal Tiger of India, the ecology and distribution of various bird species and reconstructing molecular phylogenies of Himalayan birds. He is also an accomplished and renowned wildlife photographer.

      Simon Hedges
      Co-chair of the IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group


      Simon Hedges has over 18 years of experience of wildlife conservation-related research and survey work, endangered species and protected area management, and wildlife policy formulation, including the writing and implementation of wildlife action plans. Most of these 18 years have been spent in Southeast Asia. Since 1998, he has focused on Asian Elephants, particularly on survey method development and human–elephant conflict assessment and mitigation. Over the years, Simon’s work has been published in journals ranging from Molecular Ecology, Conservation Biology, and Biological Conservation to Tropical Biodiversity and Kukila and as chapters in several peer-reviewed books. Simon is currently employed as the Asian Elephant Coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) where he oversees elephant conservation projects in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand.

      John Heminway

      Writer and Filmmaker


      John Heminway’s career has been distinguished by a fascination with nature, science, evolution, travel and the human drama. John has written six books. His first, The Imminent Rains, published when he was 23, describes an overland journey from South Africa to Kenya. He recently completed Flight: An African Icon and Her Life in Secret, a tale of atonement on the grand scale and due to be published in North America, Europe and Israel. In addition, John has written for numerous magazines. In 1989, he was cited for his role in earning Condé Nast Traveler the National Magazine Award.

      He is a past trustee of Trout Unlimited and the Leakey Foundation, a member of the advisory board of the American Prairie Foundation and currently, a trustee of the White Oak Conservation Center, Trustee Emeritus of the African Wildlife Foundation, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Explorers’ Club where, in June 2002, he was named a “Champion of Wildlife”.

      John began his film career in 1968 with ABC Sports’ “The American Sportsman,” then America’s highest-rated sports show. Over the decades he has written and produced a wide-range of television and film projects, earning such honors as the George F. Peabody Award and Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award for Broadcast Journalism, as well as a Telly and a Ciné Golden Eagle award. John wrote, directed and produced “Bones of Turkana” for National Geographic Television; for this project he won a Primetime Emmy, the Special Jury Award, and others. One of his latest film documentary projects is National Geographic’s “Battle for Elephants” aired on PBS; this film will be shown at the Symposium, narrated by John along with his fascinating stories behind the production.

      Sean Hensman

      Manager at Adventures with Elephants and Elephants for Africa Forever


      Sean Hensman works for Elephants for Africa Forever (EFAF) and is the manager at Adventures With Elephants (AWE) based in Bela Bela, Limpopo, South Africa. He received his honours in Tourism and Leisure with Business Management from Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent, UK where his aim was to develop a tourism product that would promote both educational values as well as conservation values in a holistic manner. After travelling for a while Sean returned to EFAF in 2007 where he began to get more involved with the elephant operations that his father Rory Hensman had established back in 1988, he worked his way through the ranks and now manages the operation. Sean has always believed that there are many things to learn from elephants and has actively pursued research in various fields from the uses of elephants as bio-detectors (for tracking criminals to finding landmines and drugs) to communication and Human Elephant Conflict Resolutions. His facilities offer hands-on educational elephant interactions, safaris, swims on elephants, corporate events, films, photography and many other elephant related activities. Sean is a keen outdoorsman and sees himself as a holistic conservationist who tries to understand all aspects that face wildlife conservationists in an ever changing Africa, after all we all want our grandchildren to experience nature in its beauty, but we all have different ways of getting to that point. He currently resides at Adventures With Elephants in Bela Bela with his girlfriend Jenna, his dog Lisa, his meerkats Trouble and Timone and his six wonderful elephants Chova, Chishuru, Moya, Mussina, Shan and Nuanedi. He can be contacted through www.adventureswithelephants.co.za or info@efaf.co.za.

      Thomas B. Hildebrandt

      Professor-Doctor & Head of Reproduction Management, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin


      Thomas Hildebrandt has worked at the Institute for Zoo Biology and Wildlife Research in Berlin since 1987. In 1997 as head of the Department of Reproduction Management he was responsible for the development and establishment of the future direction of this new research segment at IZW. The combination of basic and applied reproductive science in non-domestic species was responsible for the national and international success of his team reflected by over 20 field projects and intensive collaborations with over 60 zoological institutions (A fertile mind on Wildlife Conservation’s front lines (2001), Science 294, 1271-1272). The research focuses on the mechanisms of evolved reproductive strategies and the development and application of new assisted reproduction technologies for propagation or control in selected species. His expertise in reproduction biology and pathology in elephants and rhinoceros is recognized worldwide. His development of a non-surgical AI technique in elephants was a key innovation that made artificial insemination successful in the species. It culminated in the successful insemination of 6 African and 1 Asian elephants over the last three years.

      Sectionov Inov
      The International Rhino Foundation Indonesian Liaison

      Sectionov Inov has been working in rhino conservation in Indonesia for over 10 years. With a Bachelor of Science from Agriculture University of Bogor Indonesia, Inov has been the International Rhino Foundation Indonesian Liaison since 2006 and the Program Officer for the Indonesian NGO Yayasan Mitra Rhino, (Foundation of Rhino Friends), from 2000 until 2006.  

      In 2000, Inov began his research of the Javan rhino in Ujung Kulon National Park with an emphasis on ecological competition between Javan rhino and Benteng.  He has continued to research the invasion of the Arenga sugar palm and its impact on the Javan rhino habitat. Inov has also participated in several research projects on the Sumatran rhino in Way Kambas National Park, along with being involved with rhino protection units and the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.

      Arief Rubiano

      Manager for Rhino Protection Unit - Sumatra
      Rhino Foundation of Indonesia


      Arief Rubianto has been working in rhino conservation in Indonesia for over 20 years. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Agriculture University of Bogor Indonesia. He has been working with the Rhino Protection Unit (RPU) since 1995. He was the RPU Protection Coordinator for Kerinci Seblat National Park from 1995 – 1997, and the RPU Field Coordinator for Way Kambas National Park from 1997 – 1999 and for Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park from 1999 - 2002. From 2003 to present Arief has been the RPU Assistant Manager and Coordinator for Intelligence and Law Enforcement in Indonesia.

      Christopher Stremme
      Veterinarian for the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC)


      Christopher Stremme has over 16 years of experience in elephant health care, captive elephant management, and more than 8 years of experience in project management and elephant field veterinary activities and research in Asian countries (including Vietnam, Indonesia, India, and Thailand).

      The Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC) started the Elephant Health Care Program (EHCP) in 2006 to provide veterinary expertise for Sumatran elephant conservation as well as assist the government Elephant Training Centres in Sumatra to address health care and management of the camps’ captive elephants. Dr. Christopher Stremme is one of the primary veterinarians of VESSWIC who helps implement the activities of EHCP.

      Jeffery Zuba

      Senior Veterinarian, San Diego Zoo Safari Park


      Jeffery R. Zuba obtained his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduate school in virology and immunology, he completed his residency in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine at the Zoological Society of San Diego. Dr. Zuba then received an appointment as Clinical Professor in Zoo Medicine at Colorado State University. For the past 20 years, Dr. Zuba has been a staff veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Professional highlights include being a faculty member for the Envirovet Institute (an ecosystem veterinary health program), an affiliate clinical professor at the Wildlife Health Center at the University of California-Davis, the Veterinary Coordinator for the Condor Release Program in Baja, Mexico and the Veterinary Advisor for both the California Condor and White Rhinoceros Species Survival Plans. He is a principal investigator of a team who have developed anesthetic and laparoscopic protocols to perform the first-ever surgical contraception procedures in free-ranging African elephants as an alternative to the controversial use of culling to control wild populations. Dr. Zuba lectures internationally on a wide range of subjects including mega-vertebrate anesthesia and conservation medicine and he will bring his energy and expertise to teach the Elephant and Rhino Immobilization Workshop at the Symposium.

  • Post-Conference Trip to The Wilds




      The Post-conference trip, scheduled for Saturday August 31, is optional and will cost $25 per person. Included in the fee will be transportation to and from the Comfort Inn Hotel and the Wilds, lunch, and a special tour of The Wilds. Vehicles will depart the hotel about 8 am and return by 6 pm.

      The Wilds is a private, non-profit wildlife conservation center in Muskingum County, Ohio. It features 25 exotic species and hundreds of native species to this geographic area. The land on which The Wilds is located is reclaimed coal mining land. It is the largest wildlife conservation center for endangered species in North America and it is open between the months of May and October. Formally, the Wilds is incorporated as The International Center for the Preservation of Wild Animals, Inc. (ICPWA). You can learn more at the organization’s website: thewilds.org

  • Immobilization Workshop


      Presented by Dr. Jeff Zuba

      Date: Wednesday August 28 during Zoo Day in late afternoon
      Location: Pittsburgh Zoo Animal Care Center
      Instructor: Dr. Jeffery Zuba, Senior Veterinarian, San Diego Zoo Safari Park
      Fee: $40 Participation limited to 40.

      This two hour workshop will cover advanced protocols and anesthetic techniques in mega-vertebrates, specifically the elephant and rhinoceros. Emphasis will be directed toward the captive mega-vertebrate. The session will include a variety of practical clinical topics for each species including anatomic features affecting anesthesia, choice of anesthetic drugs, the use of clinical monitoring devices in mega-vertebrates, the importance of proper facilities and equipment, proper restraint techniques used to assist in safe anesthesia, and the decision making process to anesthetize the mega-vertebrate patient. Class participation will be highly encouraged. There will be no live animals used in this didactic course. Handouts will be provided.

  • Official Event T-Shirt


      Official event t-shirts are available for purchase. The t-shirts are $15 each and can be ordered in sizes small through XXL. To order, please visit our online registration page.


  • Conference Hotel




      The Comfort Inn in RIDC Park is the official hotel for the Elephant and Rhino Symposium. Please reference the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium or the Elephant and Rhino Symposium when making your reservation to receive the conference rate of $79 per night.

      However, to get the $79 conference rate you must contact their front desk for reservations. You can do this by calling 412-963-0600, or by contacting Terry De Iuliis, Executive Assistant at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, at 412-365-2500 or tdeiuliis@pittsburghzoo.org.

      For a description of the Comfort Inn hotel facilities, rooms, and free continental breakfast, please visit their website by clicking here.

  • Sponsorship Info


      Sponsorship opportunities are available to support the Elephant and Rhino Symposium.
      Click here for more information.

      Thanks to the following Symposium sponsors:









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