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Projects in Laos PDR

Filtering by Tag: Asian Elephant

Noy An's Story

Vanessa Gagne

You may remember the picture of Noy An with veterinarian Emma Chave from our California Pizza Kitchen fundraiser.  Her mother, Mae Kham di, worked in logging.  There are no real settled logging camps in Laos.  Private timber companies hire a few mahout/elephant pairs for a while and then the mahouts move their elephants to other work sites.  More than 50% of the Lao domesticated elephants still work in logging, but as the forest is shrinking, they have less work than before.  Therefore a proper, responsible transition towards tourism is really needed.  

ElefantAsia is a French NGO working since 2001 to protect the Lao elephants.  Their projects help the Lao domestic population all over Laos and they run the only elephant hospital in the country, based at the Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) in Sayaboury, Laos.

Owners of working elephants in Asian countries usually try to make sure their elephants do not become pregnant.  An elephant’s time out of service during the latter stage of pregnancy and during the first year or two of the calf’s life can inflict very real economic hardship on the owner and his family.  Or, worse, the elephant may have to work her entire pregnancy and return to work with a calf that does not get the proper rest and time to nurse that it needs to thrive.

Noy An is a beneficiary of the “Baby Bonus Program’, an initiative of ElefantAsia.  For Noy An, private donors helped ElefantAsia sponsor the bonus to Mae Kham di’s owners in cash and now the ECC is paying a salary for the mahout as Kham di is ‘hired’ as part of the well thought out eco-tourism camp at the ECC.  The contract for Noy An’s bonus is two years and is allowing Noy An the opportunity of learning about being an elephant at her mother’s side and as a healthy youngster, she is active and inquisitive and a true joy to behold.

In Laos, females are bred to both domestic and wild bulls, with a resulting healthier genetic diversity of the population.  And, as we all know, if there are no baby elephants, the day will come when there will be no elephants.  That is not an acceptable possibility if we can help it.

Asian Elephant Support is pleased to have supported the Elephant Conservation Center with modest funding the last three years.   

Noy An nursing

Noy An nursing

ECC Bull Treatment

Vanessa Gagne

Last month we shared a video with you about the Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury, Laos.  Now we’d like to go a bit further into their role as a provider of elephant healthcare in the area.  Here you will see the resident veterinarian Emma clean and dress an abscess on the back of the bull Phu Kam Soey, with the assistance of her aide, Kan.  It is an elaborate process to make sure the abscess is prepared for proper healing.  The elephant is brought into what is referred to as an elephant restraint device.  There, the mahout keeps his attention with treats, usually cooked rice, while the vet performs the necessary steps.  It is imperative that the elephant be made to feel calm and accepting of these medical procedures, such is the importance of the elephant/mahout bond.  This is an example of what drives the motivation for AES:  local, everyday situations where we can be of assistance to elephants and the people whose lives are intrinsically linked to them.  Watch the video below, or on YouTube.

The Elephant Conservation Center

Vanessa Gagne

The Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) in Sayaboury, Laos, has become a haven for logging elephant mahouts.  It offers veterinary care among many other needed services to mahouts and their elephants.  Laos is a major contributor to the logging industry, however, it has been severely impacted by illegal logging over the past century.  Now that so much old growth forest has been decimated, it’s not just the trees that have been impacted, but the humans and elephants as well.  With the population of Asian elephants in their range countries declining, the ECC in Laos is a beacon of hope in sustaining their numbers and allowing mahouts to remain culturally relevant.  The following video highlights the importance of the ECC to elephants in Laos.

Asian Elephant Support (AES) in conjunction with ElefantAsia has been fortunate to work with and contribute toward the success of the ECC.  In the past, AES has been able to fund the purchase of dart guns, medicine for their mobile vet unit, a portable scale, and more recently provide for the education and salary of their employee Kan.

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.

ElefantAsia MVUs in Laos

Vanessa Gagne

Asian Elephant Support is pleased to help support another project of ElefantAsia! You may remember that last year we purchased a dart gun for ElefantAsia that was used to help manage dangerous bulls in musth. For those who don’t remember, ElefantAsia is a non-profit in Lao PDR that works to safeguard Asian elephants and is the only organization dedicated to caring for elephants and their mahouts in this country. Working in collaboration with governmental organizations in Laos, “ElefantAsia initiates elephant conservation programs, elephant breeding incentives, environmental awareness and economic sustainability campaigns throughout areas of Laos populated by domesticated and wild elephants.”

One of ElefantAsia’s current projects is “Capacity Building to Strengthen Management of Captive Elephants” in Laos. This is an expansion of the Lao Captive Elephant Care and Management Program, which provides free veterinary care to the working elephants of Laos. They are also working on micro-chipping the nation’s elephants, to reduce the illegal capture and trade of wild and captive elephants. ElefantAsia has also implemented the “Management of Domesticated Elephants” project which outlines and enforces fair working conditions for elephants and their mahouts, and also issues the official elephant identification cards.

There are approximately 470 captive elephants in Laos. As logging is still legal in Laos, many of the elephants are involved in this industry and they frequently suffer injuries from working in such conditions. ElefantAsia operates Mobile Veterinary Units (MVUs) that travel to remote logging locations to provide free medical treatment to these elephants. The MVUs also respond to emergency healthcare and musth management missions throughout the country.

In order to facilitate cost efficiency, the MVUs provide treatment and medicines to the working elephants while also conducting field missions to distribute the elephant identification cards. AES is impressed by the comprehensive work ElefantAsia does for the elephants of Laos and we are honored to collaborate with such a trustworthy and hardworking organization. As a result, Asian Elephant Support has agreed to donate $1800 to cover the cost of medicine used by the Mobile Veterinary Units for six months. We look forward to further collaborative opportunities with ElefantAsia.