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Projects in Laos PDR

Update from The Elephant Garden

Chris Rico

The Suan Xang Project
Vivre Avec Les Elephants: Elephants in Laos

The Suan Xang Project started in March of 2017 with the purchase of 6 hectares of land within the Hongsa District, in the province of Sayaboury. The project’s goal is to establish a place that provides for the long-term welfare of elephants within the community in an effort to perpetuate and ensure not only lasting bonds, but the support of elephants in local villages during the tourist off season.  Suan Xang intends to keep the 65 elephants that call the district home within the community by filling the dietary needs for any elephant that wants or needs to eat with completely free access.  The elephants entering will also provide for the garden with their natural gardening abilities by opening canopies, dispersing seeds, fertilizing, and turning soil.

Since our initial funding in late 2016 to purchase the land, the project has progressed steadily through the first two phases. This included recruiting local staff, preparation of the land, structural work, collection of plants, and the first grand opening of the garden to the local elephants and their mahouts. During the construction of the traditional house that will be used for hosting the “gardeners” and their guests, the use of recycled logs from old Tai-Lue houses were purchased and transported to the site via truck and local elephants. While the land was being prepared and explored an old elephant trap (called a Khoumxang) was discovered that will be used in the future to educate visitors about the cultural and historical impact of the elephant keeping culture in Laos. Local knowledge of plants has been a driving force for the garden, both medicinally and digestibility for the elephants. This information was collected along with natural vitamin balls that have been passed down from mahouts for their charges.

The passing of traditional knowledge from mahout to mahout will be made simpler during the third phase of the project. During this time workshops and conferences will take place at Suan Xang to allow all mahouts as well as scientists to come together, study, and share elephant-related knowledge.  The third phase of the project also includes construction and design of an elephant museum, completion of an elephant-centered herbarium, publication of a book dedicated to the feeding of elephants, and the grand opening to the public. With continued support from sponsors like you we can continue to assist these innovative projects that help the local communities, elephants, and the natural habitats in Laos.

For more information check out our article from September 2017.