Origin and Nature of Conservation Initiative for the Asian Elephant

Conservation Initiative for the Asian Elephant (CIFAE) arose from the lifelong aspiration of two men that until 1999 where completely unknown to each other; it makes sense that they were. Amirtharaj “Christy” Williams was born in Tamil Nadu, India, and Ron Chandler was born in Dallas, Texas; both with a love for the elephant. Christy would earn a PhD from the Wildlife Institute of India and eventually become World Wildlife Fund’s Asian elephant and rhino expert. Ron would pursue careers in lake and stream ecology, hydrology, environmental remote sensing, and urban ecology for approximately 30 years before earning a PhD in psychology. In 1997, while between careers, Ron asked himself, “If you could do anything, what would you do?” The answer came instantly, “Do something for elephants!”

Ron traveled to Africa to study elephants and in 1998 began contacting elephant experts around the world expressing his interest in formally helping elephants. Christy, in response to one of these queries asked, “Have you thought about Asian elephants…do you know that they are in great peril too?” In 1999 Ron and Christy met in Florida, discussed the myriad issues affecting Asian elephant dignity and survival, drafted mission and vision statements, set priorities, and named the organization. With the help of Alyson Flournoy, John Schaible, and Tom Ankerson at University of Florida’s Levin School of Law Ron developed a business plan, articles of incorporation, etc., and in 2000 CIFAE was born as a 501c(3) with the highest ranking available to a not-for-profit charitable organization.

Human behavior is imperiling both human and elephant dignity and survival. Human behavior is a response to the psychological experiences of landscape, culture, society, and of life and death. Human and elephant ecologies are profoundly social, and to address the comprehensive problem in which we find ourselves and the elephant we must simultaneously resolve factors negatively affecting human and elephant dignity and survival. To achieve this we approach each problem through the knowledge and experience of the people living and working in areas where elephants are being harmed . This social psychological approach allows us to work effectively with local not-for-profit organizations, and local and regional governments in ways that develop resilient and holistically sustainable solutions. 

Thank you for visiting us. Enjoy pouring over the pages of our website. Ask us every question that comes to mind about the elephant and the people sharing their habitat; tell us what you would like to see. We will do our best to answer you.

As you read about CIFAE, learn how you can help us help the Asian elephant and the people with whom the live. With your help we can help them. Your assistance is essential to our success on behalf of the elephant!

All the best,


Ron Chandler, Ph.D.

President, Co-founder

Conservation Initiative for the Asian Elephant


Ron Chandler

Ron Chandler

Christy Williams

Christy Williams