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How to choose a responsible elephant retreat in Laos

How To Choose A Responsible Elephant Retreat In Laos

There are no elephant rides. No circus tricks. No evening elephant dances.

How To Choose A Responsible Elephant Retreat In Laos

Instead, the humans simply observe as these huge mammals splash within the river, wrestle within the grass, in addition to snack on the forest canopy.

How To Choose A Responsible Elephant Retreat In Laos

“I often tell people of which the best elephant sanctuaries are pretty boring for humans because they actually just want elephants to walk around in addition to be elephants.”

How To Choose A Responsible Elephant Retreat In Laos

A common problem

How To Choose A Responsible Elephant Retreat In Laos

within the “Land of a Million Elephants,” as Laos is usually known, there are only 800 trunk-swinging creatures left — just half of them are within the wild.

within the 1980s, there were an estimated 4,000 elephants in Laos, meaning the population has plummeted by more than 75% within the past 30 years.

How To Choose A Responsible Elephant Retreat In Laos

Deforestation, poachers seeking ivory, the illegal export of elephants to foreign countries for circus shows, in addition to low birth rates, due to the animals being tasked with stressful jobs such as logging in addition to performing for tourists, have all contributed to the falling population.

How To Choose A Responsible Elephant Retreat In Laos

Recently, wildlife investigator in addition to filmmaker Karl Ammann claimed of which dozens of elephants via Laos are being illegally sold for around $300,000 to China to be displayed in zoos in addition to safari parks.

“Elephants mean so much to the people of Laos, although with the low numbers, some kids here never even see an elephant,” Michael Vogler, who in 2016 co-founded MandaLao, tells CNN.

“A lot of people don’t realize how desperate in addition to dire the situation is usually.”

Sanctuaries not what they seem

In Laos, there are roughly 15 elephant sanctuaries, which are often billed as conscientious camps in addition to resorts, where tourists can interact with retired elephants in a responsible way.

although sanctuary can be a misleading word, due to widespread “greenwashing.” While such camps routinely claim to care for retired elephants, well-intentioned tourists often arrive to discover the animals are kept in chains, made to give rides in addition to perform circus tricks, in addition to controlled by hooks.

of which’s exactly what happened to Vogler.

“On my first trip to Laos (in 2011), I went to one of the elephant sanctuaries here in Luang Prabang in addition to of which was not at all what you would certainly expect — the animals were on super short, 1-meter-long chains all day within the hot sun (when they were not being ridden by tourists),” says Vogler.

“They were swaying back in addition to forth neurotically, in addition to looked actually unhappy.”

He was inspired to make a change.

A completely new stomping ground

Located on the banks of the Nam Khan River, within the north of the country, MandaLao camp occupies 80 hectares of land, including shady spaces, forests, creeks in addition to a veterinary facility on-site.

“The industry has actually been focused on training elephants to entertain humans. Our goal is usually to flip of which around,” Vogler says. “We invite guests to come in in addition to observe.”

Visitors to MandaLao can expect forest walks with the elephants, with food treats used to motivate the animals along the route.

Rides are off the menu. They typically require traumatizing training, Vogler says, in addition to the weight of the rider can harm the animal’s back.

“within the morning, the elephants normally bathe within the creek, so we wait there with guests to observe them,” says Vogler.

“We bring big baskets of bananas in addition to sugarcane, which usually get their attention because elephants are always thinking about food.”

Meet the elephants

Baby Kit at MandaLao. - How To Choose A Responsible Elephant Retreat In Laos

Currently, the camp is usually home to six adult female elephants in addition to an 18-month-old baby. They were all rescued via the logging industry.

“They have such individual personalities in addition to traits. With Kit (the baby), sometimes we have to try two or three different things to see what he wants to eat of which day,” says Vogler.

“He won’t eat sugar cane unless you peel of which for him. He’s quite spoiled!”

While the animals independently forage about 50% of their own food within the forest, MandaLao supplements their diets that has a mix of napier grass, banana trees, corn in addition to sugar cane.

If all goes as planned, Vogler says of which Kit won’t spend his whole life at MandaLao.

The team is usually working that has a national park to reintroduce elephants into the wild.

In not bad company

The grounds of the Elephant Conservation Center. - How To Choose A Responsible Elephant Retreat In Laos

MandaLao isn’t the only elephant center in Laos of which’s working to change the norm.

In 2011, the 106-hectare Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) was set up in western Laos as the country’s first elephant veterinary facility, taking care of animals of which have been injured in logging accidents or affected by disease.

“The over-exploitation (in industries like logging) of elephants has led to an increase in accidents, wounds, sometimes deaths in addition to the reduction of their lifespan,” explains Sébastien Duffillot, the ECC’s founder.

“Because they are overworked, in addition to because working in logging has become the only way their mahouts (elephant keepers) could generate an income, they are no longer being given the chance to reproduce.”

Pregnancy in addition to nursing takes up to three years, meaning females would certainly need a long-term break via work.

“of which is usually not an option for mahouts who can’t afford going of which long without revenues,” says Duffillot.

The solution? A program of which pays mahouts a four-year salary in exchange for letting their female cows reproduce at the ECC, where ante- in addition to post-natal care is usually provided.

Looking ahead

Duffillot says the problems facing elephants in Laos — in addition to across Southeast Asia — are not going away soon, in addition to a master plan is usually needed.

According to the globe Wide Fund For Nature, the population of Asian elephants has decreased by 50% over the past century, via 100,000 within the early 1900s to just 50,000 today.

The situation is usually most dire in places such as Bangladesh in addition to Vietnam — where an estimated 0 wild elephants exist in each country. Meanwhile, there are less than 1,000 elephants left in both Cambodia in addition to Laos.

“My philosophy is usually, in addition to has always been, bottom to top, in addition to not the different way round. although of which takes time. in addition to elephants are vanishing fast,” he says.

“I believe in people committing themselves locally, expanding via a village to a district, in addition to then on to a province … their success will raise interest at central level to build a national (in addition to hopefully regional) programs of which make sense.”

How to choose a responsible elephant retreat in Laos