People’s minds need to be reprogrammed with compassion and empathy for all animals – humans and non-humans
Sangita Iyer, Founding Executive Director
Sangita Iyer is the author of the recently released book, Gods in Shackles, a National Geographic Explorer, multiple award-winning nature & wildlife filmmaker and broadcast journalist, and a biologist.
Sangita has recently produced a 26-part short docu-series about Asian elephants, funded by the National Geographic Society’s storytelling grant. She's also the director and producer of the globally acclaimed epic documentary, "Gods in Shackles", which was nominated at the United Nations General Assembly, and has garnered 13 international film festival awards. Sangita received the "Nari Shakthi Puraskaar" - Women Power Award - the highest award for women making a difference in India from the country's President for her courage to expose the plight of captive elephants that are being exploited for profit behind the veil of culture and religion.
Board of Directors
NANCY LEE MA
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 K. PLANT
Nancy 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. Nancy lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington, a ferry ride away from Seattle.
Nancy is inspired by the vitally important work of VFAES in preserving the beautiful and noble Asian Elephant species and dedicated to doing all she can to work on their behalf.
Ravi 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.
"The protection and conservation of the Asian Elephant in India is my mission and calling," says Ravi. He was inspired to join VFAES to protect endangered Asian elephants, in particular the Indian Elephant, as his passion aligns with the organization's values and mission. Ravi also has a keen interest in social change, and volunteers for a successful Sydney-based charity that raises funds for the under-privileged in India.
Luveen is a career software engineer in Silicon Valley with over a decade of experience, having worked at companies like Oracle and Zipcar. He is instrumental in streamlining our donor giving and relationship management processes. Luveen is setting a strong technical vision for VFAES operations and projects, helping us leverage various online platforms to improve our positive impact.
At VFAES, Luveen is channeling his love for India's elephants into concrete action to safeguard their future. "Elephants' association with divinity in Indian culture invariably excludes them from physical protection. Together with VFAES, I hope to transform this," he says. Luveen is also an animal and environmental photojournalist, working to relay stories that connect people with the climate and biodiversity crises. He volunteers with several animal rights and sustainability organizations.
Kathleen is an accomplished yoga teacher, author, and vegan coach. She has a Master's Degree in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas. She has been teaching Ashtanga Yoga since 1997. She is a member of the Self Realization Fellowship and a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda. Kathleen brings a strong talent for connecting with people and organizing events to the board, combined with her deep compassion for all living beings, including India's elephants.
Kathleen is passionate about the culture, spirituality, people and animals of India. "I strongly believe in VFAES' mission to save Asian elephants from extinction. The programs they implement help India's elephants and create jobs for its people," she says. As Fundraising Chairperson, she will work to elevate fundraising and grow support for our mission, especially through our annual Galas. Her dream is to spread Sangita's mission to many parts of the world.
DR. RAMAN SUKUMAR
Prof. of Ecology - Indian Institute of Science (IISC)
Raman obtained his PhD from the same institute in 1985 for his pioneering research on the ecology of interactions between Asian elephants and people. While he continues to work on the ecology, behavior and conservation of elephants, he has expanded his research interests to tropical forest ecology and climate change. His primary conservation interests lie in promoting sustainable landscapes for elephants and biodiversity.
Sukumar has also contributed extensively to Indian government policy on conservation, and has been a member of the Indian Board for Wildlife (chaired by the Prime Minister) and the Project Elephant Steering Committee. He was Chair of the IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group during 1997-2004.
David Ebert, a retired lawyer, co-founded Animal Defense Partnership (ADP), which provides free legal services exclusively to animal protection nonprofits. He started ADP in 2016 as a means to devote himself more fully to reducing animal suffering. ADP now represents 160+ clients working in the US as well as US-based organizations advocating for change in other parts of the world, including Israel, the U.K., Kenya, Zimbabwe, India, Uganda, South Africa, China, Nepal, the Caribbean, and Switzerland.
Although ADP represents advocates for all animals, David is particularly interested in working on behalf of elephants. He is humbled and inspired by the opportunity to work more closely with Sangita and her VFAES team.
Hariraj is an activist-Lawyer practicing at the High Court of Kerala and spearheads the litigations pending before the said court demanding better deal for elephants in general and captive elephants in particular. Having witnessed disturbing cruelty meted out to the captive elephants in South India he and his friends have taken on to themselves the duty of alerting the law against such misdeeds. While multi pronged attack is waged in various courts he was deeply moved by Sangita Iyer's efforts to sensitize and educate people regarding the illegality and immorality of the system of maintaining captive elephants in South India.
Hariraj is a great asset to VFAES in guiding us with a strategic and methodical approach in ending elephant torture.
DR. SUSAN MIKOTA
Director Veterinary Programs & Research for Elephant Care International
Dr. Susan Mikota is the Director Veterinary Programs and Research for Elephant Care International (www.elephantcare.org), a non-profit organization that she also co-founded. Elephant Care International is dedicated to the healthcare, welfare, and conservation of elephants. Their open-access website provides an extensive elephant bibliography, medication formulary and other resources. Dr. Mikota has worked in Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia, India, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. She has written numerous scientific articles and book chapters and co-edited Biology, Medicine, and Surgery of Elephants, the first modern veterinary textbook dedicated to elephants. Mikota is a member of the IUCN Asian Elephant and Wildlife Health Specialist Groups. In 2017 she became a Diplomate of the American College of Animal Welfare, a specialty acknowledged by the American Veterinary Medical Association.