Our Team


Bio picLaurene K. Knowles

Elemotion Foundation’s founder, Laurene K. Knowles, was born in the US and enjoyed a successful career in Europe as a dancer, model, and classical ballet teacher.  She has two Bachelor of Arts degrees in French and History from Virginia Commonwealth University and speaks fluent English, French, Italian, and intermediate Japanese.

Laurene has had a love for animals that reaches back to her early childhood. Today, this love has transformed into a passion for animal welfare and wildlife conservation. She has a passion for rehabilitating and releasing/rehoming animals in need. In 2009, she decided to create Elemotion Foundation to improve the lives of Asian elephants and the people connected to them.

Laurene’s research has led her to Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Thailand, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka where she studies the unique elephant situation in each country. By having a broad international base, she is able to find cross-country solutions and unite people working on solving similar problems in different countries. Laurene looks for evidence based solutions and prefers a scientific approach to addressing problems. She has a special interest in wild elephant conservation in Sri Lanka where Elemotion’s conservation projects are now based.

Laurene with babiesToday, Laurene lives in Lausanne, Switzerland where she manages Elemotion Foundation’s initiatives, fundraising, website, and coordinates with the ground team on field projects. Laurene continues to travel regularly throughout Asia for field research and foundation projects. In July 2016, Laurene completed the Royal Veterinary College’s International Training Course on ‘Asian Elephant Health, Reproduction, and Breeding Management’ at the Chiang Mai University and National Elephant Institute, Thailand. She also has a cat named Fonzie and enjoys feral/stray cat rescues.

If you would like to contact Laurene, please send an email to:  laurene@elemotion.org



Elephant Specialist and Country Representative (Sri Lanka)

Dr. Deepani Jayantha

Dee hikingSri Lankan born, Dr. Deepani Jayantha is a graduate of the University of Peradeniya in veterinary management of captive and wild elephants at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science. In 2013, she completed her dissertation on the Economics of Human-Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka as part of a Masters Degree in Development Studies at University of Colombo.

In the last 12 years, Dr. Jayantha’s extensive research, projects, and publications include post-release monitoring studies of the rehabilitated and released wild juvenile elephants of the Elephant Transit Home, community conservation and education projects to mitigate Human-Elephant conflict near Udawalawe National Park, welfare of Sri Lankan captive elephants, and responsible tourism.

Dr. Jayantha also travels throughout Asian and African range countries addressing international symposia and forums on Sri Lankan elephant conservation and welfare. Dr. Jayantha works hand in hand with governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations to create guidelines and recommendations to improve the conditions of captive and wild Asian elephants. Collaborations include the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation, University of Colombo, Born Free Foundation, Dogstar Foundation, IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group, and Elemotion Foundation where she is currently ‘Elephant Specialist and Country Representative’.

Dr. Jayantha has a passion for all wildlife and has extended her expertise to help leopards as well as feral dog and cat populations. In her spare time, she enjoys photography and reconnecting with nature on hikes in Sri Lanka’s wilderness.




Shenya de Silva

Shenya de Silva is a graduate of the University of Colombo in Biological Sciences and holds a second degree in Information Technologies. Having worked as a volunteer and office assistant for the Born Free Foundation in Sri Lanka, Shenya has a passion for wildlife and field work. She volunteered for Elemotion Foundation as a field assistant and computer graphics artist. Her volunteer experience with Elemotion Foundation’s team led her to travel extensively throughout Sri Lanka, photograph and collect data on orphaned elephants, interview wildlife rangers, design reading materials, and work with local communities. Today, she lives in Berlin, Germany where she continues to contribute with graphics and content for Elemotion Foundation’s media and website.

In her spare time, Shenya likes to read, hang out with her cat, and take trips to the wilderness.




M. Stuart

Born in the United States, M. Stuart is a lifelong animal lover. She rescued her first kitten when she was three years old and has been helping animals ever since.

After a lengthy career in private industry, M. Stuart decided to follow her passion for animals and enrolled in a two year Veterinary Technician program to become a Licensed Veterinary Technician in order to help animals in a more profound way. Since that time, she has participated in many mass sterilization clinics in Asia. In 2011, she completed an in-depth elephant nursing course in Southeast Asia which served as springboard to elephant welfare and advocacy.

M. Stuart’s international background and insight in Asian elephant welfare continues to make her a key resource person for Elemotion Foundation’s responsible tourism and captive elephant health/welfare initiatives.



Board of Directors

Laurene K. Knowles- President, Founder

Luca Nanni- Vice President

Barton J. Knowles- Secretary, Treasurer

Diane Castleberry- Education Secretary

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