Eye to eye with an unchained Elephant

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The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) describes the Asian elephant as "being seriously threatened with extinction". There are 560 working animals left in Laos and a further 700 wild ones rapidly running out of habitat. The Elephant Festival has been organised to raise awareness of the need for action to protect the Asian elephant as part of the vital cultural and natural heritage of Laos and the countries of the region. Nowadays conservation of an important elephant population is undertaken by Wildlife Conservation Society in Protected Areas. They are trying to reduce human-elephant conflict. The working elephant is a main source of income of the people of this region especially for mahouts. Laos Elephant also attract tourist because of the facility of elephant riding and trekking. Tourism appears to be one answer with its good and bad consequences.


In the late afternoon we arrived at the Tadlo Resort. This elephant was standing next to our bungalow all alone. I promised my kids a ride for the next day. I took a photo closely of this giant elephant but I did NOT noticed he was unchained. Nobody there just me and the unchained Elephant! I guess she must be a very friendly and timit Elephant. We had a beautiful bungalow overlooking the Tad Lo waterfall; as is typical in Laos there is nothing in between. The best thing to do here is explore the falls, a relaxing meal, visit the people in village, go for a swim and an elephant ride. There are two elephants, which can carry two people each. There were only a couple of tourists here, and we were the only ones going for a ride that next day. The elephant carried us across rivers, past the Taat Lo waterfalls, and through a village. The women were out working in the fields and tending to children. Their dress code is much more relaxed at home than in town. One woman hurried into her hut to cover her bare breasts as we rode into the village. The children, like all Lao children, shouted Sawadee. The young children find white- skinned people fascinating and frightening. They warm to your smile, tentatively touch your skin, and then hide their faces or run away. An elephant doesn't get very far in two hours. He just lumbers along. We had a friendly chat with the elephant handler and enjoyed the ride.


Laos, ooit bekend als het ”Land van een Miljoen Olifanten”, riskeert zijn olifantenkuddes binnen de 50 jaar kwijt te raken indien er niets wordt ondernomen om de dieren beter te beschermen. Een van de redders van de Aziatische olifant in Laos kan het toerisme zijn. Stroperij en verlies van leefgebieden door houtkap, landbouwactiviteiten en hydro-elektrische projecten heeft voor een sterke terugval gezorgd, zowel van werk- als wilde olifanten. Bezorgdheid over het lot van de Aziatische olifant in het conflict tussen mensen en olifanten, heeft de afgelopen jaren geleid tot oprichting van beschermde gebieden. Toerisme is ook nodig, want tot heel kort geleden werd in Laos geen enkele poging gedaan om olifanten beter te beschermen. Maar nu de toeristen komen lijkt er meer initiatieven tot bescherming van de olifanten mogelijk, want toeristen brengen natuurlijk geld in het laatje. En dat geld kan het verarmde land best gebruiken.

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Taken on July 16, 2009