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 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
Ganesh is a vegan and passionate animal rights activist, involved in various outreach and awareness events. Having been aware of the acute issues & plight of elephants in India for some time now, Ganesh is committed to provide a meaningful contribution and support, to end the practise of capturing elephants and their use in religious festivities and human entertainment. Ganesh is a business and IT strategy professional with over 20 years of experience. His talents, energy and passion is invaluable to VFAES.
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.
Growing up in Hawaii, Alex was immersed in and developed an appreciation for wildlife and the environment from an early age. This passion developed into a lifetime of volunteering and advocacy and inspired her to work with wildlife organizations in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Sumatra, and in Los Angeles, where she currently lives. Alex brings with her a background of marketing, community development, and project management which, along with on the ground experience, allows for a broad perspective on issues pertaining to elephants in captivity and human culture that they currently exist within.
Marketing & Events Director
Maureen is an award-winning interior designer; a designer on HGTV’s House Hunters Renovation; and one of Angeleno Modern Luxury Magazine’s Dynamic Women of Los Angeles. Maureen is the first PETA-approved cruelty-free interior designer and is certified by VeganDesign.org.
Sangita's Indiegogo campaign for "Gods in Shackles," made Maureen aware of the horrific treatment of temple elephants in India, inspiring her to apply her years of experience in the entertainment and nightclub industries to help raise money by hosting a red-carpet screening of "Gods in Shackles" in Los Angeles. Since then, Maureen has produced fundraising events for several non-profit organizations, including VFAES. Maureen says, "I am honored to join the VFAES team and help raise funds to save Asian elephants in India, through live and virtual events."
Director - Fundraising
A native Oregonian, Gina has had a lifelong passion for animals. Living on a ranch in SW Washington, she has given horses, dogs and other animals free range to be what they are. Gina has been instrumental in helping place Nosey, a circus elephant, at the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary. Gina fulfilled her lifelong dream in March 2018 by spending a month in Thailand and volunteering at various elephant organizations, helping Asian elephants. She says it was a life changing experience. Gina has an extensive background in marketing & community involvement, bringing fresh ideas that will help with outreach campaigns.
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.
Advisory Board & Patrons
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. 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.
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.
Margrit is the world’s leading animal healer and communicator, and the author of & internationally acclaimed books translated into several languages. Her trailblazing books Healing for Horses and Hands-on Healing for Pets were the first publications in the world to cover the topic of healing energy (including communication), with animals.
Margrit has experience of working with a wide variety of animals and is a highly sought after writer, teacher, and speaker worldwide, as well as offering private consultations, workshops, clinics, retreats, and spiritual coaching sessions related to human-animal relationships. Over the years Margrit has been a featured expert in several TV programmes and given numerous radio interviews about her specialist topics. Margrit’s TV experience including as a featured expert in Animal Roadshow (Animal Planet), Pet Nation (Sky HD 1) and Animal Allies (BBC).
Dan views life as a gift, a beautiful spiritual journey. He meditates frequently, is a vegan and believes that we humans, as custodians of the planet, have a responsibility to live and make choices from a foundation of love and compassion.A fundamental part of who Dan is at the very core is his lifelong love of animals. He is an empath - can't help but feel what an animal is feeling. He says he cannot and will not stand idly by while they are suffering. Acting is Dan's passion and it's a career he feels truly blessed and grateful to have, but animal conservation is his purpose in life. Happily, one facilitates the other very well, certainly in terms of raising awareness.
Katie Cleary is the Founder of World Animal News, President of Peace 4 Animals, Filmmaker and Animal Advocate. She has been a strong supporter of Voice for Asian Elephants Society since 2016, when the Gods in Shackles documentary was screened in Los Angeles, California, where Katie lives.
Rula Lenska is a renowned and sought after actor, presenter and passionate campaigner for wildlife especially elephants who have been a life long passion!
She says - "I have had the honour of spending many glorious moments in their majestic presence and am ever more in awe of these gentle giants and cannot imagine a world without them. I am thrilled to be asked to be a patron and will do what I can to further the beliefs and compassionate workings for their welfare through Sangita and her dedicated team of elephant saviours both wild and in captivity. I was deeply moved by the film Gods in Shackles! And even more moved on meeting the very special Sangita who made the film. Another powerful iconic woman to join the ranks of my heroines. Her energy is compelling and it was this and her passion that made me want to be part of VFAES."
As a Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Animal Welfare Group I have long made it my mission to raise awareness of animal suffering, campaign against cruelty and seek to protect wildlife as well as our environment.
"Asian elephants sadly face human persecution both in terms of their capture for cruel entertainment and loss of habitat through urbanisation and man’s encroachment. As intelligent and beautiful animals, elephants as a species deserve our protection."