Humane Society International / South Africa

S. Chakrabarti/We Animals Media

CAPE TOWN, South Africa—Amidst the headlines detailing the severe outbreak of avian flu in South Africa, the culling of approximately 7.5 million infected chickens this year, and the resulting economic impacts, animal protection organization HSI/Africa says the fragility of our current food system and animal welfare are being overlooked.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, as of 21 September the country has experienced a total of 50 outbreaks of the H7 strain of bird flu, and 10 outbreaks of the H5 strain of bird flu. The South African chicken and egg industries have killed approximately 7.5 million chickens, including around 2.5 million chickens bred for their meat and five million hens kept for egg production. Izaak Breitenbach, general manager of the South African Poultry Association, commented in an interview that this represents a staggering 20-30% of South Africa’s total flock.

In 2017 it was reported that 20% of the national flock was culled and the outbreak cost the poultry industry R1.8 billion. Not only did the 2017 H5N8 outbreak in South Africa result in massive financial loss, and the death of millions of birds, but more than 1,300 people lost their jobs. The current outbreak is leading to egg shortages, job losses and increased egg prices. The emergence of new strains of avian influenza underscores the inadequacy of relying solely on vaccinations and biosecurity measures. The situation we are witnessing today may tragically repeat itself in the future, as these new strains continue to evolve.

Candice Blom, farmed animal specialist for HSI/Africa, emphasizes: “Our food system’s fragility becomes evident when millions of chickens must be killed to ward off disease. A food system premised on mass production of confined animals is inherently prone to risk, regardless of biosecurity and plans for imported vaccines. It is clear that we need more than just band-aid solutions; we need a fundamental shift toward a more diverse food system that is resilient and also not contingent on animal cruelty.”

Beyond the cruelty of slaughtering millions of birds in response to a disease outbreak is the inherently cruel intensive cage confinement of hens during egg production. The vast majority of egg-laying hens in South Africa are confined and crowded together in small, wire battery cages, with each hen having the space of an A4 piece of paper to live her life. These cages prevent hens from performing almost all of their natural behaviours, including nesting, perching, dustbathing, scratching, foraging, walking and even flapping their wings.

As we confront the dire consequences of the avian flu crisis in South Africa, it is imperative that we broaden our perspective to address the systemic issues at the core. This includes reevaluating our animal and food production practices and relying upon a more plant-based food system for the benefit of all living beings.


Media contact: Leozette Roode, media specialist, HSI/Africa:+27 71 360 1104;

Humane Society International / Europe


BRUSSELS—After months of waiting for the European Commission to honour its European Green Deal commitment to deliver a package of legislative proposals to upgrade the EU’s animal welfare legislation, Executive Vice President Maroš Šefčovič finally broke the EU executive body’s silence on this issue during the Parliamentary hearing for his appointment as the new Green Deal czar.

In response to probing questions on animal welfare from several Members of the European Parliament from across the political spectrum, Šefčovič dashed EU citizens’ hopes of the Von der Leyen Commission adopting legislative proposals to end the caged confinement of farm animals in the EU this year. While claiming to be committed to the animal welfare file, he hid behind its ‘complexity’ as an excuse for failure for its delivery. Šefčovič’s only olive branch to animal advocates was a promise to come up with a proposal on live animal transport by December 2023.

Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe, issued the following statement in response to Šefčovič’s comments:

“We were promised action to end cruel caged confinement, but turns out to have all been hot air. Despite being grilled by several MEPs, during his hearing Commissioner Šefčovič largely skirted around the issue of animal welfare and failed to provide any clear timeline with respect to when, or even if, the European Commission would deliver its promised ban on caged farming. The announced legislative proposal on animal transport is good news, but alone, it falls short of the commitments made in the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Commission’s promise to the 1.4 million European citizens backing the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizen’s Initiative.

The science is clear, it is time to stop confining millions of sentient animals in cages and crates so small they cannot turn around or take more than a single step forward. A slew of scientific opinions delivered by EFSA, the European Union’s science advisory agency focused on food chain risks, confirm that the current animal welfare legislation needs to be brought in line with new scientific understanding on animal welfare. This legislation has already been deemed no longer fit for purpose under the Commission’s own regulatory fitness and performance programme that aims to ensure that EU laws deliver on their objectives. Moreover, the Regulatory Scrutiny Board has issued a positive opinion about the draft impact assessment accompanying the legislative proposals, which have already been drafted by Commission staff. The announced additional discussion on animal welfare in the context of the strategic dialogue with farmers is a poor attempt to dissolve concerns after recent reports that the EU could drop its plan to get farmed animals out of cages. The Commission already has a Platform on Animal Welfare that involves all relevant stakeholders. Let us not forget that ahead of the 2024 EU elections, it would be an affront to EU citizens and participatory democracy if the Commission failed to deliver on both its ECI and Green Deal promises to raise animal welfare standards. Humane Society International, allied groups and EU citizens will not give up. We will be pushing Šefčovič and his colleagues to deliver all the legislative proposals before the end of their mandate”.


Media contact: Cassie Bodin-Duval, international coordinator for media relations: ; +32 (0) 469 149 469

Campaigners at party conferences urge politicians to give animal welfare the level of priority the British public expect

Humane Society International / United Kingdom

Gabriela Penela/We Animals Media

LONDONOver two-thirds (67%) of the British public think that a political party planning to pass more laws to improve animal welfare and protect animals from cruelty would have ‘the right priorities’, and 71% feel that such policies would reflect their values, according to new constituency-level polling by Focaldata commissioned by animal protection organisations Animal Aid, Compassion In World Farming, FOUR PAWS UK, Humane Society International/UK and the RSPCA. 

Underscoring the strength of support for strong animal welfare legislation amongst the public, the polling reveals that 71% believe that passing good animal welfare laws shows compassion and concern for those who don’t have the power to protect themselves, and almost one in ten (8.6%)  rank ‘whether or not a party will protect animals from cruelty’ as one of the top three most important policies that will influence which party they vote for.

Claire Bass, senior director of campaigns and public affiairs at Humane Society International/UK, said: “Despite MPs often stating that they typically hear from their constituents about animal welfare issues more than any other issue, we are not yet seeing animal protection being given the priority it so clearly deserves by any of the main political parties. When politicians underestimate the importance many people attach to stopping animal cruelty, it easily becomes a problem for candidates on many doorsteps. There are millions of animals without a voice or vote on the policies that parties offer in their manifestos for the next election, but this poll makes clear that strong commitments towards a more compassionate society will be something that millions of voters are looking for from party leaders.”  

The Government pledged eight specific animal welfare commitments in its 2019 manifesto and has so far delivered on only three. Pledges to ban live exports, prohibit the importation of hunting trophies from endangered species and tackle cruel puppy smuggling are all yet to be passed into new laws. The Government’s 2021 Action Plan for Animal Welfare committed to consider action on a range of other issues including the UK fur trade, the use of cages and crates on farms and mandatory animal welfare food labelling, but progress in all of these areas has stalled during the current parliamentary session. 

Despite the Labour Party publishing a comprehensive—and well supported—animal welfare manifesto in 2019, its newly published National Policy Forum contains only a brief indication of the Party’s ambition to advance new protections for animals, including strengthening the Hunting Act and banning the importation of hunting trophies.   

At its conference last week the Liberal Democrats passed a motion on food and farming which incorporates pledges to benefit animal welfare including ensuring that in international trade deals imports “meet UK environmental, climate and animal welfare standards”. Campaigners at the conference heard that a detailed animal welfare policy paper is planned and may be debated at the Party’s spring conference. 

The polling also reveals: 

  • Answering questions on specific issues of farming and trade: 
    • 63% of respondents feel the Government should bring in legislation to phase out intensive farming to protect the environment and animals;  
    • 77% of respondents agree with the statement ‘when we ban a type of farming in the UK for being too cruel, we should also ban imports of products produced the same way overseas’ while less than a quarter of people (23%) agree with the statement ‘we should not let our trading relationship with other countries be limited by animal welfare concerns.’ 
  • One in ten (10%) of the British public place animal welfare issues in the top five most important issues facing the country at this time, compared to 30% of people placing ‘crime’ in the top five issues, and 42% of people placing ‘climate change’ in the top five. 79% of respondents place ‘the NHS’ in the top five issues. 
  • Almost one in ten (8.6%) people rank ‘whether or not a party will protect animals from cruelty’ as one of the top three most important policies that will influence which party they vote for. 


Notes to editors:

Media contact: Sally Ivens, HSI/UK: 

Humane Society International

David Paul Morris

SÃO PAULO—Special Dog, one of the largest pet food manufacturers in Brazil, announced that it is now procuring exclusively cage-free eggs for its manufacturing operations. This move makes Special Dog the first pet food manufacturer in Brazil to have effectively implemented its 100% cage-free eggs policy.

Brazil has almost 114 million hens and a majority are confined in cramped wire cages, preventing them from spreading their wings or taking more than a single step. Cage-free production systems provide hens with the space they need to lay eggs in nests, stretch their wings, scratch the ground, socialize with their peers and to peck—all of which are scientifically documented behavioral needs.

Anna Cristina Souza, policy and program manager for Humane Society International Farm Animal Welfare and Protection in Brazil, said: “Special Dog is now relieving thousands of egg-laying hens from a life of extreme confinement and sending a clear message to the egg industry that the future of egg production is cage-free.”

João Paulo Figueira, sustainable development manager for Special Dog, shared what motivated the company to adopt higher standards to guide their procurement practices: “Valuing animal welfare is the essence of our work, as we guarantee quality of life and longevity for more than 3 million dogs and cats that we feed daily. We understand that this care should fall on our supply chain as well, and with a lot of commitment, we completed the cage-free transition in less than a year.”

While pet food manufacturers such as Premier Pet, Premiatta, Dr. Stanley, and Padaria Pet have made commitments to embrace cage-free practices, it’s Special Dog that takes the lead in the Brazilian pet food sector, having already implemented its cage-free policy. Nestle, Unilever, and Pepsico have also pledged to halt the purchase of eggs from caged hens by 2025, a collective shift that underscores the undeniable momentum towards a future where cage-free egg production becomes the norm.


Media contact: Anna Cristina Souza:

Animal protection groups including HSI/UK and FOUR PAWS UK voice concern that popular, Government-backed Bill is at serious risk

Humane Society International / United Kingdom


LONDON—Cross-party MPs and Peers, alongside campaigners from the Coalition Against Trophy & Canned Hunting including animal protection organisations Humane Society International/UK and FOUR PAWS UK, gathered outside Parliament with a giant inflatable lion and giraffe to show their support for the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill. The politicians and campaigners came together near Old Palace Yard in Westminster to implore the Government to find the necessary time to allow the Bill – a manifesto commitment – to complete its passage into law and protect the tragic victims of trophy hunting.

Over 30 MPs and Peers—including Henry Smith MP, Emily Thornberry MP, Ruth Jones MP, Baroness Natalie Bennett and Baroness Cathy Bakewell—were in attendance at the event, which comes after the Bill’s Committee Stage in the House of Lords last night (12th Sept.). During the debate, a small group of pro-hunting Peers attempted to kill the Bill by running down time, having tabled over 60 amendments. With a limited number of sitting days until the end of this Parliamentary session, there is now a serious risk that there will be insufficient time for the Bill to complete its remaining stages.

Claire Bass, senior director of campaigns and public affairs at Humane Society International/UK, said: “We’ve returned to Parliament today to demonstrate the huge strength of support the Bill has from both cross-party MPs and Peers, and the British public – over 80% of whom back the ban. It’s deeply frustrating that a handful of the Government’s own backbench Peers attempted to gun down the Bill last night with an onslaught of time-wasting amendments. Armed with giant inflatable wildlife, we are calling on the Government not to let animals or the public down, and urgently bring the Bill back to the Lords to deliver the promised hunting trophy import ban.”

Sonul Badiani-Hamment, country director at FOUR PAWS UK said: “Today’s strong turnout from over 30 MPs and Peers reaffirms the widespread support the Trophy Hunting (Import Prohibition) Bill has from across the political parties. The purposeful filibustering by a handful of backbencher Peers means that time is running out to discuss the Bill and their myriad of 64 tabled amendments. This is a wasteful course of action, taken to prevent the Bill from becoming law. United with elected MPs, who reflect the wishes of the voting public, we urge the Government to immediately make more time for the Bill and to continue pushing it through; they have the will of the nation and Parliament behind them.”

Adam Cruise, acting CEO of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, said: “As someone who has been in the field for almost two decades, the claim that trophy hunting benefits conservation and community livelihoods is false. The clear evidence on the ground is one of widespread decline of species and increasing levels of poverty throughout Southern Africa. Decades of trophy hunting not only has failed to improve the situation but has made it considerably worse.”

Conservative Peer Baroness Fookes led the Bill’s Committee Stage, in which five amendments were discussed. Two votes were called, which were both lost in the Government’s favour.  


Media contact: Sally Ivens, senior media manager, HSI/UK:; 07590 559 299  


  • A YouGov poll carried out in December 2021 found that 82% of the British public think importing animal body parts as hunting trophies should be made illegal.   
  • In recent years, UK trophy hunters have imported trophies from some of the world’s rarest species, including polar bears, rhinos, African elephants and leopards.    
  • Since trophy hunting rose to prominence in the colonial era, there have been catastrophic declines in populations of some of the world’s most iconic species – including elephants, lions, rhinos and giraffes – many of which are under increasing pressure from loss of habitat, climate breakdown, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.   
  • The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, which passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons on 17th March 2023, would prohibit hunting trophies of animal species listed with the highest level of protection in Annex A or B of the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations (2018) from being imported into the UK  

HSI/UK decry the ‘onslaught of time-wasting amendments’ attempting to wreck a popular Government-backed bill

Humane Society International / United Kingdom


LONDON—A small number of Peers have been criticised by animal protection organisation Humane Society International/UK for attempting to wreck the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill at its Committee Stage in the House of Lords. Peers including Lord Mancroft and the Earl of Caithness tabled over 60 amendments, refused to group them in an apparent attempt to frustrate the debate, and subjected the House to lengthy speeches in defence of trophy hunting.

On the same side of the House, Minister Benyon and Lords sponsor Baroness Fookes delivered strong rebuttals against attempts to wreck the Bill.

Claire Bass, senior director of campaigns and public affairs at Humane Society International/UK, said: “It is exasperating that a small group of pro-hunting Peers has tried to hijack this hugely popular Bill that would deliver a Conservative manifesto commitment to ban hunting trophy imports. A UK ban on importing these sick souvenirs has the backing of the Government, the Commons and over 80% of the British public. Tonight’s Lords debate saw some shameful and undignified accusations levelled at both the Government and opposition benches, amidst an onslaught of time-wasting amendments. The Government must keep its resolve and bring this Bill back to the Lords urgently to deliver the promised hunting trophy import ban.”

Baroness Fookes led the debate, in which Peers began to discuss each of the 64 amendments tabled, running down the time for the Bill’s Committee Stage. Two votes were called, which were both lost in the Government’s favour.

The Bill, which passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons on 17th March 2023, would prohibit hunting trophies of animal species listed with the highest level of protection in Annex A or B of the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations (2018) from being imported into the UK.  With a very limited number of sitting days until the Parliamentary session ends, HSI/UK is now urging the Government to schedule a second Committee sitting for the Bill next Monday, to avoid it running out of time.


Media contact: Sally Ivens, senior media manager, HSI/UK:; 07590 559299


  • A YouGov poll carried out in December 2021 found that 82% of the British public think importing animal body parts as hunting trophies should be made illegal.
  • In recent years, UK trophy hunters have imported trophies from some of the world’s rarest species, including polar bears, rhinos, African elephants and leopards.
  • Since trophy hunting rose to prominence in the colonial era, there have been catastrophic declines in populations of some of the world’s most iconic species – including elephants, lions, rhinos and giraffes – many of which are under increasing pressure from loss of habitat, climate breakdown, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
  • In June 2023, a group of 103 wildlife conservation experts, scientists, government officials and community leaders who live and work in countries throughout Africa sent an open letter to Members of the House of Lords urging them to support the bill to ban the import of hunting trophies.

Interim interdict prohibits the trophy hunting of African elephants in South Africa

Humane Society International / Africa

Simon Eeman/Alamy Stock

CAPE TOWN—Humane Society International has learned about a male elephant who was killed in a deeply distressing and tragic trophy hunt at a local game reserve on September 3, 2023, in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The elephant suffered through eight gunshots over an extended period of time before finally succumbing to his injuries.

This tragic episode contradicts the prevailing South Africa High Court interim interdict, a court order issued after a successful legal challenge brought by Humane Society International/Africa in 2022 against the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and others. The court order explicitly prohibits the allocation of permits for trophy hunting of African elephants, leopard and black rhino in South Africa.

The elephant was killed at the Maseke Game Reserve, situated within the Balule Nature Reserve, by a hunting party consisting of a client, a hunting guide, a reserve representative and a backup rifleman. According to a publicly released letter issued by Balule Nature Reserve, the client discharged the initial gunshot, wounding the elephant. The reserve representative and the hunting guide fired subsequent shots to bring the elephant down, however these efforts also proved ineffective. The injured elephant sought to escape into the neighbouring Grietjie Game Reserve, an ecotourism reserve, where trophy hunting is prohibited. The injured animal was followed on foot and a helicopter was called to the scene. The elephant was eventually located and was chased back into Maseke Game Reserve by the helicopter where he was finally killed by more gunfire. It is reported that approximately eight shots were discharged into the elephant before the harrowing ordeal was over.

Tony Gerrans, executive director for Humane Society International/Africa said, “We are horrified by this unnecessary tragedy. Given the High Court’s interdict prohibiting the permitting of elephant hunts, the letter’s conclusion that this hunt was lawful is incorrect. Furthermore, no animal should ever experience the pain and suffering that this elephant endured. The practice of trophy hunting is not only profoundly inhumane, but also poses a grave threat to our biodiversity and tarnishes South Africa’s global reputation as a sustainable and responsible tourist destination. To injure, chase and kill any animal in this way, is unacceptable.”

Balule Nature Reserve is a member of the Associated Private Nature Reserves, a group of privately owned nature reserves bordering Kruger National Park. Animals can move freely across the borders of neighbouring reserves. Within the APNR there are some reserves that allow trophy hunting and others that do not, which means that protected animals from one reserve, or even the Kruger National Park, could possibly be killed by trophy hunters within another reserve.

Sarah Veatch, director of wildlife policy for Humane Society International, said, “This incident is a serious cause for concern beyond South Africa: it calls attention to the rampant mismanagement, lack of oversight, and cruel nature in the global trophy hunting industry. This is a harsh reminder of Cecil the lion’s tragedy in Zimbabwe who suffered from arrow wounds for over 10 hours before he was killed by a trophy hunter, and it happens far more often than these two instances. Permit violations and documented instances of suffering like for this elephant and Cecil, are manifestations of the industry’s much larger, dangerous culture of wilful disregard for animals and the law.”

“This incident once again demonstrates the inhumanity of hunting sentient animals merely for bragging rights and to display parts of their bodies as trophies on a wall. Too many endangered and threatened animals continue to suffer and die within so called ‘nature conservation reserves’ in what is best described as a blood sport, Gerrans continued. “HSI/Africa has challenged the way this horrifying activity is permitted by the government, and we call on all South African wildlife administrators to abide by the High Court order which prohibits the permitting of elephant, leopard and black rhino hunts until such time as the court can rule on the merits of the permitting process.”

Editor’s note: These photos of elephants for download are at another South Africa location called the Makalali Game Reserve. These images are not at the Maseke Game Reserve or at the Balule Reserve and not the elephant who was shot. 


Media contacts:

Humane Society International / Mexico


MEXICO CITY—Last month, experts in animal cruelty prevention and response from Humane Society International trained officials with the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection, the Animal Surveillance Brigade, the Mexico City Environmental Attorney’s Office, Quintana Roo, Aguascalientes, and the federal and local Attorney General of Justice, among others. The trainings included topics from the principles of forensics to the search, identification, collection and preservation of evidence.

In recent months, extreme cases of animal cruelty in Mexico are trending upward, with animals killed, tortured and sexually abused by not only adults, but by children and adolescents as well. Cases like these must be treated with the greatest scientific rigor to be investigated and thus, to be able to achieve adequate sentences for the abusers.

“Eliminating violence against animals is integral to creating safer communities,” said Felipe Márquez Muñoz, animal cruelty program manager at Humane Society International/Mexico. “We hope these trainings will encourage more people to report cases of animal cruelty.”

“These types of workshops allow authorities to practice in controlled environments, based on real-world situations to hone their skills and better respond to the terrible cases of cruelty that happen every day,” said Claudia Edwards, program director at HSI/Mexico.

These trainings were in coordination with the Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Natural Areas of the State of Quintana Roo, the Animal Surveillance Brigade and the Mexican Association of Forensic Veterinarians; a total of 136 people attended the trainings across four cities in Mexico.


Media contact: Magaly Garibay: (+52 55) 5211 873, ext. 104; mgaribay@idee.agencia  

Humane Society International says Minister’s dismissal of animal cruelty is ‘inexplicable’

Humane Society International / Europe

Fin whale
Vicki Beaver/Alamy

BRUSSELS—As news breaks that Iceland will allow the resumption of commercial whaling with the introduction of so-called “improvements”,  despite clear evidence of immense animal suffering, global animal protection charity Humane Society International calls it a devastating and inexplicable decision.

Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir issued the decision today to resume whaling on the advice from a working group that improvements could be made to the hunting methods used. Her announcement comes despite the suspension of whaling in June this year after publication of an independent report by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority which revealed some whales killed in Icelandic hunts had taken up to two hours to die, with 41% of whales suffering immensely before dying for an average of 11.5 minutes. At the time, the Minister declared concerns that whale killing methods contravened the country’s Animal Welfare Act.

Ruud Tombrock, HSI/Europe’s executive director, said: “It is inexplicable that Minister Svavarsdóttir has dismissed the unequivocal scientific evidence that she herself commissioned, demonstrating the brutality and cruelty of commercial whale killing. There is simply no way to make harpooning whales at sea anything other than cruel and bloody, and no amount of modifications will change that. Whales already face myriad threats in the oceans from pollution, climate change, entanglement in fish nets and ship strikes, and fin whale victims of Iceland’s whaling fleet are considered globally vulnerable to extinction. With the need for whale protection so critical. this is a devastating rejection of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to end the slaughter at sea. There is a new shameful entry in the conservation history books―Iceland had a chance to do the right thing and it chose not to.”

Fast facts:

  • The International Whaling Commission agreed to enact a global moratorium on all commercial whaling in 1986.
  • Iceland left the IWC in 1992 but returned in 2002 with an exception to the moratorium, despite objections from multiple nations. Since re-joining the IWC, Iceland had killed more than 1,500 whales, including fin whales.
  • Iceland suspended hunting fin whales in 2016 due to a declining market for whale meat in Japan. Hunting resumed for the 2018 season when 146 fin whales were killed, including a pregnant female and a rare fin-blue hybrid whale, plus six minke whales. Icelandic whalers killed a single minke whale between 2019 and 2021, and 148 fin whales in 2022.
  • Fin whales are classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as globally vulnerable to extinction despite decades of recovery since the commercial whaling moratorium.


Media contact: Wendy Higgins, director of international media:

Dong Nai pilot project by Humane Society International in Viet Nam offers hope for the conservation of Viet Nam’s wild elephants

Humane Society International

HSI Wild Asian elephants in Viet Nam. Images captured by camera traps as part of HSI Viet Nam’s project to monitor the wild population and humanely mitigate human-elephant conflict.

DONG NAI, Viet Nam—Efforts to save Viet Nam’s wild elephants—currently listed as Endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List are being given a boost by a new collaborative, science-based project including camera trap IDs. The unique project is a joint effort between the government of Viet Nam* and animal protection partner Humane Society International and is part of Viet Nam’s new national elephant conservation action plan to protect the country’s remaining wild elephant herds. By using camera traps to create individual photo IDs and profiles for each animal, while also monitoring human-elephant conflict incidents and conducting elephant distribution surveys, the project aims to better understand elephants, their movements and behavior to help humanely mitigate human-elephant conflict which threatens this endangered sub-population of Asia’s elephants.

Viet Nam’s once thriving population of wild forest elephants has declined from around 2,000 individuals four decades ago to now as few as 100-130. Dong Nai is home to the second largest remaining wild elephant population in the country. Due to its significance, this region has been prioritized for elephant protection, and over the past two years researchers from HSI’s Viet Nam team have used camera traps to build a unique catalogue of the resident elephants, each with their own Vietnamese name and ID card of distinguishing features, behaviors, demographics, body condition and herd grouping. Male adult elephants such as Nga Lech, Cat Tien and Dat Do have been tracked and identified throughout the Cat Tien National Park, the Dong Nai Nature Reserve and the La Nga State-owned Forestry Enterprise of three districts (Tan Phu, Vinh Cuu and Dinh Quan).

The level of detail obtained from the project’s photographs and videos has never been achieved before for Viet Nam’s wild elephants. Among other results, it has enabled researchers to nearly double their estimates for Dong Nai’s sub-population from just 14 to between 25-27 individuals. HSI hopes this extremely encouraging data for Dong Nai’s sub-population might bring good news for a nationwide increase in population estimates should the project be applied across all elephant range provinces in Viet Nam, especially Dak Lak, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Nam which hold the other largest sub-populations.

Nguyen Quoc Tri, vice minister of the Viet Nam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “Unlike other efforts, this special project with HSI provides us with science-based and practical solutions. From the viewpoint of government management, I highly appreciate the diverse stakeholder engagement that the project has involved, including local communities, researchers and animal protection experts so that both human and wild animal voices are considered carefully as part of each recommendation impacting elephants.”

The joint project not only helps better track and understand this elephant sub-population, it also helps to monitor and better manage human-elephant conflict incidents. Over the past several years, researchers have gathered data on the type of locations where such conflict occurs, the level of conflict experienced, as well as the number and identities of the elephants involved in each incident. The data gathered from community questionnaires as part of an elephant distribution survey has also revealed the true size of the elephants’ home range and those areas shared between humans and elephants.

These initiatives confirm that confrontational deterrent tactics such as hitting elephants with sticks, banging cooking utensils, deploying firecrackers and homemade explosives, or even setting poison, are not only detrimental to elephant welfare but can also make elephants defensive and more aggressive in the presence of people, which further escalates conflict. With so few elephants left, even one fatality due to conflict is a disastrous outcome. Monitoring human-elephant conflict through this initiative will improve mitigation strategies by basing them on a deeper understanding of the wants, needs, habitats and habits of the elephants.

Vo Van Phi, vice chairman of Dong Nai Provincial People’s Committee, said: “Dong Nai Province would love to pioneer new initiatives to protect threatened species. Losing the last Javan rhino in Cat Tien National Park questions and challenges us to save other endangered species to ensure Dong Nai is one of the highest biodiversity hotspots in Viet Nam. Obtaining these promising results for our wild elephants, we sincerely thank MARD/DOF and HSI for their technical and financial support over the last several years.”

Phuong Tham, Viet Nam country director for Humane Society International, said: “Viet Nam’s elephant population is now so small that unless we act fast to protect them, they face the very real possibility of extinction. The Viet Nam government has acknowledged that conservation priority with a very welcome national protection program which HSI is helping to craft, and this Dong Nai project is a key component. With elephants and people competing for limited habitat, conflict situations can arise and even be exacerbated when violent or frightening deterrent tactics are employed. These tactics also treat elephants as perpetrators rather than as stakeholders who need to be understood. With HSI’s new research data, conflict situations can be approached knowing the characteristics, behavior, range and habits of the specific elephants involved, so that custom-designed solutions can be implemented that have a far better chance of promoting peaceful co-existence between people and pachyderms.”

Humane Society International and its government partners (Viet Nam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Dong Nai Provincial People’s Committee) formally announced the findings of the camera trap identification work, together with the human-elephant conflict monitoring and distribution survey, at a two-day workshop in Dong Nai on 30-31 Aug. Ten international experts joined with more than 50 Vietnamese delegates to share and discuss the best practices for elephant protection to apply within Viet Nam’s local contexts of small and fragmented elephant populations. It is hoped that the workshop will contribute significantly to assist Viet Nam’s decision makers in identifying which actions to adopt for Viet Nam’s national elephant conservation action plan, which will run from 2023 to 2032, with a vision to 2050. In the meantime, the data gathered and the methodology implemented will continue to provide the foundation for ongoing work in Dong Nai province, and the partners hope that it can be replicated in other elephant range provinces in Viet Nam to learn more about the local populations and mitigate human-elephant conflict across the country.

Download Photos/Video from the Camera Trap


Media contacts:

  • Wendy Higgins, HSI’s director of international media,
  • Mai Nguyen, senior wildlife manager of HSI in Viet Nam,,
*The government of Viet Nam is represented by the Department of Forestry under Viet Nam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Dong Nai Forest Protection Department of Dong Nai Department of Agriculture and Rural Development under Dong Nai Provincial People’s Committee.

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