PLATINUM2023

Voices for Asian Elephants

Creating Sustainable Human Communities by Saving the Endangered Asian Elephants

aka VFAES   |   Camarillo, CA   |  http://www.vfaes.org/

Mission

We have changed from Voice for Asian Elephants Society to Voices for Asian Elephants OUR VISION: Creating sustainable communities by caring for and protecting endangered captive and wild Asian elephants. OUR MISSION To protect endangered Asian elephants of India by preserving corridors for wild elephants and restoring their habitats, while providing basic knowledge and tools to people living near the forest fringes, in alleviating human elephant conflict to foster a peaceful coexistence. VFAES will utilize as an essential educational tool “Gods in Shackles", a multiple award-winning and United Nations nominated documentary, and short films, funded by Nat Geo Society, produced by VFAES Founding Executive Director, Sangita Iyer, in order to cultivate empathy and foster mind shifts.

Ruling year info

2016

Founding Executive Director

Ms Sangita Iyer

Secretary

Ms. Nancy Plant

Main address

P. O. Box 1833

Camarillo, CA 93011 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

47-3943896

NTEE code info

Wildlife Preservation/Protection (D30)

Public, Society Benefit - Multipurpose and Other N.E.C. (W99)

Unknown (Z99)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Asian elephants are an endangered species, with around 40,000 of them around the world, at least 27,000 in India. Therefore, our programs are based in India. Due to the significant human population growth, people are encroaching into the elephant habitats, and taking resources, pushing elephants out of their homes, and intensifying human elephant conflict. VFAES aims to purchase vast swaths of plantation land, and create habitable forestland for elephants. India also has approximately 2,500 captive elephants, mostly exploited in festivals in the name of culture and religion. However, due to congested roads and the significant human population, as well as extremely hot weather patterns, elephants are unable to withstand the heat and noise and crowded streets. They're running amok, destroying properties and killing people. VFAES aims to empower youth, bureaucrats and the general public through films and other nonconventional means the need to retire elephants.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

EleSense to Save Elephants from India's Deadly Train Tracks

EleSense is an innovative technology, an early warning sensor system that cautions train drivers of elephant presence, while alerting elephants, thus helping prevent railway collisions and deaths. Sensor detects elephant presence up to 500 meters and triggers an alarm, which is intercepted by railways. Between January and July 12, 2023, EleSense has saved the lives of 172 elephants crisscrossing the train tracks in the Siliguri-Alipurduar division of West Bengal.

Unsustainable development including railway tracks and roads that cut through core habitats are the leading cause of elephant deaths across India. According the Auditor General's report, 186 elephants have died in train collisions. Speed restrictions are enforced inside protected areas but not outside where most accidents occur. Our early warning system alert train drivers of elephant presence, with enough time for the speeding train to stop. The sirens also warn elephants about the trains, preventing them from crossing.

Population(s) Served

In India's West Bengal state, around half a dozen elephants die each year from accidental or deliberate electrocutions. But by November 2020 up to 10 elephants had been electrocuted. While some cases were caused by sagging wires, deliberate electrocutions have been surging, with farmers protecting their crops using illegal electrical fences. Since the success of our pilot in Jalpaiguri district, we have expanded EleFence to three districts, aiming to thwart elephant electrocution by using elephant friendly fences, combined with community outreach to create awareness.

We have installed elephant-friendly solar fencing between 3-6 Kms of farmland and villages, depending in the need and there has been no elephant deaths. We are also monitoring wildlife movement using camera traps. And footage shows how cleverly elephants are avoiding the solar fencing, stepping gingerly on the designated pathways. Biofriendly potent concoctions in bottles, emanating a nasty smell is also a deterrant.

Population(s) Served

Habitat loss is pushing elephants out of the forests in search of food, and they are getting hit and killed by oncoming trucks. Between 2019 and 2022 (in three years), 245 elephants have been killed in Odisha, caused by multiple threats - two of them being trucks and trains. We have cultivated elephant-friendly fodder in a plant nursery and have replanted them in core elephant habitats to restore the depleted forests.

As forest resources in Odisha rapidly dwindle due to development pressures, distressed and famished elephants are forced to enter villages and cropland in search of food, by crossing major highways. This is intensifying human elephant conflict and causing an unprecedented number of elephant deaths by vehicle collisions. Restoring degraded habitats with favored elephant plant species will provide safe foraging grounds for elephants and prevent them from crossing treacherous roads to find food.

Population(s) Served

Elephant deaths due to traffic collisions are mounting in the eastern Indian state of Odisha. The problem is, major highways are cutting through core elephant habitats, forcing elephants to cross treacherous roads in search of food. Motorists, in particular truck drivers, drive recklessly. The existing elephant crossing signs are inconspicuous and ineffective. Our groundbreaking reflective billboards, 9' above ground, will alert Odisha drivers, warning them to slow down and save elephants.

We have installed groundbreaking reflective billboards 9' above ground, which will alert Odisha drivers, warning them to slow down and save elephants. The reflective road signages to alert the drivers in elephant crossing zones are now ready for installation, expected to begin by mid-April in the eastern Indian state of Odisha! The signages designed in local Odiya language will be placed 9' above ground, tall enough to alert Odisha’s truck drivers to slow down.

Population(s) Served
People of Southeast Asian descent
Extremely poor people
Low-income people
Working poor
Homeless people
People of Southeast Asian descent
Extremely poor people
Low-income people
Working poor
Homeless people
People of Southeast Asian descent
Extremely poor people
Low-income people
Working poor
Homeless people
People of Southeast Asian descent
Extremely poor people
Low-income people
Working poor
Homeless people

This project aims to create safe shared spaces for people and elephants, using science based solutions. In West Bengal state, India, human and elephant deaths are alarmingly high at approx. 40 people and 10-15 elephants per year. A simple tool like flashlights are proving to be incredibly effective in the 50 villages we have distributed 5000 flashlights among 3,700 underprivileged families, impacting around 7000 people living near tea plantations surrounding the forest fringes.

Since the launch of this initiative there has been no human or elephant deaths in the 3,000 KM area that we have covered. Our tea plantation community leaders continue to empower their peers and coworkers. More than 35 local ambassadors identified to ensure the usage of the flashlights among the local communities; No elephant electrocution case in the pilot villages; Use of flashlights has also reduced accidental snakebites; Local people are using flashlights regularly during any outdoor activity after sunset.

Population(s) Served

After four years of patient and diligent collaboration, strategic planning, and fundraising, in June 2023, VFAES purchased a four-acre plot of land from private owners inside the Nilambur forest of the southern Indian state of Kerala. The land, which had been converted to a plantation, is surrounded by reserve forest, a key habitat for a variety of wildlife, including elephants, tigers, and leopards. The area also forms part of the Nilambur Elephant Reserve and houses around 340 elephants. By purchasing the land we have opened up a safe corridor for these 340 elephants.

VFAES is awaiting court documents that will enable us to transfer the land to Kerala Forest Department to be rewilded and to be preserved as a natural habitat in perpetuity. This rare public, governmental, and nongovernmental partnership exemplifies VFAES’s inclusive and collaborative approach to conservation, garnering media coverage that can be found on our news coverage page:
https://www.vfaes.org/news-coverage

Population(s) Served
People of South Asian descent
People of Southeast Asian descent
Extremely poor people
Low-income people
Working poor
People of South Asian descent
People of Southeast Asian descent
Extremely poor people
Low-income people
Working poor

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of press articles published

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Age groups, Religious groups

Type of Metric

Context - describing the issue we work on

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

After the launch of Asian Elephants 101 series, produced and directed by our Founder, Sangita Iyer, local and international dailies published articles on human elephant conflict in India

Number of participants reporting greater issue awareness

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults, Children and youth

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Asian Elephants 101 series airing on Nat Geo WILD YouTube has garnered more than 1000000 views in total since its launch on World Elephant Day (2021) Nat Geo TV India has millions of viewers

Number of youth who demonstrate critical thinking skills (e.g., reasoning, analysis)

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth

Related Program

Champions to Feed Odisha Elephants

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Through Explorer Classroom organized by Nat Geo Society, Founder Sangita Iyer has screened her films to several batches of primary and secondary students. Our team in India raising awareness in India.

Number of animals with freedom from hunger and thirst

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Champions to Feed Odisha Elephants

Type of Metric

Context - describing the issue we work on

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

VFAES has created waterholes and planted elephant friendly saplings in degraded forests of Odisha, with 250+ elephants relieved of hunger and thirst.

Number of animals with freedom to express normal behavior

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

The Kerala Corridor Project

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

By rewilding a 4-acre plot of plantation land inside the South Nilambur Forests of Kerala, 340 elephants can roam fearlessly between forest patches, expressing natural behaviors.

Number of wildlife care situations resolved without animal intake

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

EleSense to Save Elephants from India's Deadly Train Tracks

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

By installing EleSense technology VFAES, in collaboration with SNAP Foundation and Nature Mates has saved 172 elephants from getting killed on the deadly train tracks of West Bengal state (India)

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our mission is to protect endangered Asian elephants of India by preserving corridors for wild elephants and restoring their habitats, while providing basic knowledge and tools to the people living near the forest fringes to alleviate human elephant conflict, thereby fostering peaceful coexistence between people and wild elephants.

In realizing our vision and mission:
1) Create elephant corridors and restore their lost habitat to protect Asian elephants in collaboration with the state forest departments
2) Alleviate HEC through capacity building and training programs for the local communities living on the forest fringes, and creating sustainable communities
3) Provide the native people near the forest fringes basic necessities and survival tools like flashlights, the first line of defense to protect themselves and elephants
4) Organize youth empowerment programs to cultivate empathy and compassion for elephants, and empower them to pursue ecological studies and elephant conservation
5) Conduct sensitization workshops for bureaucrats, law enforcement authorities, religious institutions, and decision makers, to advocate for legislative changes in tackling wildlife crime and ending elephant capture
6) Provide capacity building and hands-on training for elephant handlers (mahouts) to foster compassionate treatment of captive elephants, in collaboration with forest departments across states that house captive elephants

i. Buying out plantation land from private land owners who cultivate plantations inside the forests by partnering with Kerala Forest Department (southern India)
ii. Expand the EleSense project across West Bengal to prevent elephants from getting killed on train tracks (Northeast India)
iii. Install elephant friendly fencing to prevent elephant electrocution in West Bengal
iv. Install barricades around 250-500 open wells across Odisha (Central India)
v. Cultivate elephant friendly saplings and plant them in depleted forests of Odisha
vi. Create waterholes in fragmented forests of Odisha for elephants to provide them with ample water during the dry summer months
3) Build broad public awareness through film, education, nature immersion, and multi-media campaigns, to foster thoughtful shifts in ethical and cultural attitudes
4) Provide basic necessities to people living on the forest fringes, starting with flashlights, in order to help mitigate human-elephant conflict
5) Purchase a one-acre plot of land to create a permanent nursery and grow elephant friendly saplings, which will then be transplanted in forests
6) Collaborate with Forest Departments to create corridors, and promote biodiversity, so elephants have enough land to sustain themselves
7) Conduct Gentle Giant Summit to foster collaboration and communication between various governmental agencies to build consensus and work together in protecting wild elephants, while enhancing the living conditions of captive elephants
8) Conduct town-hall meetings with communities near the forest fringes to build awareness of the rescue program and engage them as partners in mitigating human/elephant conflict

We have a robust team of highly qualified Board of Directors and an Advisory Committee from versatile backgrounds. Our board was formed in November 2017. VFAES has recently recruited a digital strategist to harness the power of social media, especially during the COVID lock down. We also depend on talented and dedicated volunteers, who are assisting with social media, graphics, and other fundraising tools

The VFAES board holds quarterly “virtual" meetings, and is working to establish a governance structure and put financial and other controls in place and to create and implement a fundraising plan. The VFAES Board of Directors currently stands at five, and the five Advisory Board members are world-renowned elephant and animal welfare experts, and we will continue to seek qualified candidates until we have at least ten Board of Directors. VFAES is staffed by a small but passionate, highly educated and efficient Board of Directors from various walks of life.

Sangita Iyer, Founding Executive Director of Voice for Asian Elephants Society, based in the United States is a highly experienced award-winning nature and wildlife journalist, an independent documentary filmmaker, and a biologist. Sangita is holds a Masters' degree in Environmental Education and Communication, a B. Sc. in Biology, and a post-graduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism (Dean's Honorary Role).

Nancy Lee Ma, CPA is the CEO and Founder of Crystal Clear Profits, Inc. She comes to VFAES with over 30 years of experience as a CPA and working with non-profit organizations, including small local non-profits and a national wildlife animal sanctuary with $3M in revenue. She has served in various financial capacities for the non-profit organizations as a board member and volunteer. Her passion is to raise human consciousness of the planet, and to educate the public on caring for our environmental resources and preservation of all endangered species.

Nancy Plant has been a lawyer for more than 30 years. She has practiced law in a variety of settings, including the biopharmaceutical industry and, most recently, the nonprofit sector, and has worked with organizations of all sizes and types, ranging from small, all-volunteer nonprofits to publicly held, Fortune 500 companies. Nancy is also a freelance grant writer, working with nonprofits in the environmental and social services fields. She is the co-author of two books about law and social issues and several articles.

Ravi Manian is our Budget Specialist. He is an IT Application Systems specialist who recently retired from the field after 30 years, the last 10 years having worked for 20th Century Fox. Ravi is also a cost accountant and brings his accounting expertise to help us compile a robust annual budget for the organization, while also helping produce project budgets for various projects.

1) VFAES recently purchased a 4-acre plot of plantation land inside the forests and is rewilding this land, opening up a safe corridor for more than 340 elephants in the South Nilambur region in Kerala state (India).
2) EleSense - a high tech device to prevent elephant deaths on train tracks has been designed, and installed in January 2023 in the norther region of West Bengal, in collaboration with forest and railway ministries, and as of July 2023 has saved 172 elephants
3) Installation of elephant friendly, Solar electric fencing, galvanized wires (not electrical) fencing, and eco friendly concoction that emanate potent odor to deter elephants are the specific methodologies we are using (in West Bengal) to stave off elephants from agricultural land and these technologies are preventing electrocution deaths
4) For the first time ever reflective signage alerting drivers to slow down has been installed in elephant crossing areas along major roads that connect to the highways
5) We have delivered 5000 flashlights thus far, despite the COVID restrictions, meeting our goal, so tea plantation workers and elephants become alert of each other's presence (in West Bengal) and avert tragedies
6) One Gentle Giant Summit has been conducted so far with more than 200 stakeholders participating from various faculties, including forest, power supplier, works & engineering, railway authorities and conservationists
7) Project Asian Elephants 101 for youth involved 100 participants who graduated after a 7-day nature immersion program as Elephant Ambassadors
8) Sangita Iyer's 26-part short film series on Asian elephants was recently released on Nat Geo with almost 100,000 views in some of the films in a matter of two weeks.

Founding Executive Director, Sangita Iyer is constantly on the ground, providing numerous workshops to the forest department, alerting the authorities of the abysmal conditions that captive elephants suffer. Since 2009, Sangita Iyer has been tirelessly exposing atrocities against Temple Elephants in the southern Indian state of Kerala. In 2016, she produced a United Nations-nominated and multiple award-winning documentary, Gods in Shackles, to heighten awareness of the plight of Indian elephants exploited in glamorous cultural festivals.

As a biologist, journalist and filmmaker, it has been natural for Sangita to integrate science in her documentaries. She is the Executive Director and Producer of Gods in Shackles documentary that exposes the truth behind the glamorous cultural festivals, where temple elephants are exploited for profit behind the veil of culture and religion. The film, has won 13 Awards, and was nominated at the United Nations General Assembly by the prestigious International Elephant Film Festival and Convention on the International Trade for Endangered Species (CITES).

Financials

Voices for Asian Elephants
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Voices for Asian Elephants

Board of directors
as of 11/21/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Ms. Nancy Lee Ma (CPA)

Crystal Clear Profits

Term: 2018 - 2024


Board co-chair

Ms. Nancy Plant

Corporate Lawyer

Term: 2020 - 2030

Nancy Lee Ma

Crystal Clear Profits Inc.

Sangita Iyer

self employed

Luveen Rupchand Wadhwani

Self employed

Kathleen Morsten Kastner

Author & Yoga

Nancy Plant

Independent Lawyer

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 9/7/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
South Asian
Gender identity
Female
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

No data

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

Equity strategies

Last updated: 09/07/2023

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.