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Projects in Laos PDR

ElefantAsia Update

Vanessa Gagne

In the past two years, Asian Elephant Support has made donations for medical supplies to ElefantAsia, a French nonprofit organization operating in Laos that is dedicated to protecting Asian elephants.  In December 2012, the AES president made her first visit to Laos to see some of the work we have supported.

The destination was the Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) in Sayaboury, Laos.  The ECC is a privately owned entity that provides funding for the first elephant hospital in Laos.  ElefantAsia has partnered with the ECC and makes up any shortfall in this funding.  ElefantAsia also funds the mobile missions and conservation education outreach program, including a regional mahout association to improve the level of education and elephant welfare.

The ECC raises funds for the hospital by offering lodging and volunteer elephant experience to visitors. While most visitors go for the three-day package for $175, there is also a six day package for $399, and   longer term volunteers are accepted for $399 a week.   The ECC is home to five elephants, one bull and four females, who became residents out of need for a permanent home.  It is located on a gorgeous lake amid beautiful hills and lush flora and is rural enough to preclude unplanned visitors.

ElefantAsia has been working in Laos for 12 years.  Years of visiting every captive elephant they could find with their mobile clinic has built trusting relationships. Today, elephant owners and mahouts are calling for help more frequently and the owners, who are making an income with their elephant, are usually willing to pay for treatment. The mobile units and clinic have helped improve the lives of the elephants by providing inoculations, de-worming medications, other treatments, and kits of basic elephant medical supplies for the mahouts.  ElefantAsia has also initiated a breeding incentive program in which elephant owners/mahouts are paid for the elephant’s “maternity leave” (from near birth until the calf is 18 months of age).  The owner is also given a small plow to assist with alternative income while his elephant is out-of-work.

The ECC has arrangements with local villages to provide training on growing food for the elephants and a “guarantee purchase” program to create sustainable relationships.   Recently, a French agronomist worked for six months to start a gardening system using solar-powered irrigation from the lake to create sustainable food growth for a population of 12 to 15 elephants year round.  This program has also reduced the use of fertilizers and “slash and burn agriculture” through education and support of local producers.  In addition, the ECC offers job opportunities to a dozen or more people.

When you have a program that is making positive strides for an elephant population, you always have future goals.  ElefantAsia would like an enclosed barn for the elephant patients, an ultrasound for the breeding program, and other equipment and medicines.  This visit reinforced our conviction that our past funding to ElefantAsia has been a wise use of our funds and we will look at further ways to help them continue their work in Laos.

Please visit  www.elefantasia.org to learn more about the Elephant Conservation Center and ElefantAsia.