Elefantasia

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ElefantAsia
Logo elefantasia.jpg
Founded September 2001
Paris, France
Founder Sebastien Duffillot
Gilles Maurer
Type Non-profit Organisation
Focus Asian elephant conservation
Location
Area served
Xaignabouli Province
Laos
Method Veterinary Care, Breeding Programs, Environmental Education, Ecotourism
Key people
Sebastien Duffillot
Gilles Maurer
Revenue
$150,000USD/year
Volunteers
Approx. 10
Website www.elefantasia.org

ElefantAsia is a nonprofit organisation protecting the Asian elephant, Elephas maximus. It operates in Laos PDR (Laos) where today there are only 1500 Asian elephants remaining,[1] 560 of these domesticated and working with their mahouts.

Created by Sebastien Duffillot and Gilles Maurer, ElefantAsia has been working in Laos, the Land of a Million Elephants since 2001. Much of their organisation’s work is conducted in the Sayaboury, or Xaignabouli Province of Laos, which is home to an approximate 75% of the country’s domesticated elephant population.

Activities[edit]

If economic pressures and changing ways of life continue unchanged, the Asian elephant and its habitat will disappear from Laos within only a number of years.[when?] This is because information collation, surveying and national census have proved ineffective at providing accurate data on wild and domestic elephant populations.[2] ElefantAsia is attempting to reverse this trend by concentrating conservation efforts in three main areas:- veterinary, educational and economical support.[3] ElefantAsia has developed a veterinary care unit and carries out public awareness campaigns and environmental education within Laos.

Projects in Laos[edit]

The Elephant Festival[edit]

In cooperation with the National Tourism Authority, ElefantAsia organised the Elephant Festival each year since 2007. The first Elephant Festival was held in the Xaignabouli Province and attracted more than 10,000 people. In 2008 over 50,000 people attended.[4]

Mobile Veterinary Unit[edit]

ElefantAsia created the Mobile Veterinary Unit to provide ‘house calls’ to domesticated elephants working in remote areas. Operating in the Xaignabouli province of Laos, the Mobile Veterinary Unit is especially designed to dispense medical care to domesticated elephants.[5] ElefantAsia’s veterinary team visits logging sites, tourist camps and villages where elephants are employed to ensure they are receiving adequate healthcare. This is necessary as vaccinations are not available, medical treatment is rare and medication dosages are hardly ever adhered to.[6]

Breeding Program[edit]

The Mobile Vet Unit working in Laos

Today in Laos the domesticated elephant population only has 2 births for every 10 deaths.[7] The main cause for their decline is that they are rarely given the opportunity to reproduce. ElefantAsia is implementing an incentive scheme for Lao mahouts to voluntarily enter their elephants into a reproductive breeding program.

The aim of ElefantAsia’s breeding program is to understanding the problems which discourage elephant owners from breeding their elephants, and finding alternative methods of income for mahouts, elephant owners and their families.

The domesticated elephant[edit]

Laos is home to an approximate 560 domesticated Asian elephants. Most are engaged in timber harvesting operations and contribute to the destruction of wild elephant habitat.[8] These elephants contribute to the national economy. A community of approximately 12,500 people directly depend on revenue generated by their work. Traditionally elephants from wild populations were captured and domesticated by skilled mahouts. Since capture from the wild has been banned by the government, the domesticated population has fallen. With an increase in demand for elephants by the logging industry, the animals are made to work at an increased pace. They are overworked and exhausted and therefore do not reproduce. As the age of the average domesticated elephant is rising, the self-perpetuation of the population is in danger.

Lao culture and the Asian elephant[edit]

Asian elephants have played an integral role in Lao cultural traditions and practises. They even hold a role in the ancient Bacci ceremony. According to traditional Laos animist beliefs, the souls of a human being or animal normally occupy and vitalise specific areas of the body, but sometimes leave in times of strong emotion if tempted away by another being or an attractive place, or if captured by a malevolent spirit. Their absence is likely to cause danger, disease, or even death. To avoid such disaster, the souk khouan ritual (‘calling back the souls’) is organised and family, friends and neighbours invited. A celebrant appeals across various different worlds, calling for the absent souls to return without delay. To attract them, delicacies are placed on a round plate below a pyramid of flowers: eggs, chicken, rice, cakes and so on.

After repeated calls, the souls are presumed to have returned to their host body and the celebrant ties white cotton threads to the patient’s wrists (or ears or legs in the case of elephants and buffalo, the only animals that this ritual is held for). The souk khouan rite is practised at times of disease, before departures, on arrivals, at marriages or professional promotions - in short, on any occasion likely to cause the souls to leave, and such events are numerous in Laos.

The mahout[edit]

The mahout, or elephant keeper, is usually from a family line of mahouts that have amassed knowledge about these animals over the centuries. Mahouts possess the skills to control elephants and the knowledge of how to care for them on a daily basis. They also understand the habits of the wild animals; how to diagnose diseases; how to judge an individual elephant’s character, abilities, and relationships within a domesticated herd; what traumatic memories an elephant has and how they might affect its behaviour; how to make and use a harness, how to read tracks in the jungle, and a thousand other details. As the life expectancy of a man and an elephant are more or less equal, a young mahout is usually chosen to train and raise a young animal. Ideally the mahout will become personally involved so that when a 15-year-old animal begins its career with a mahout of the same age, several decades together await them.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Norachack, B 2002, 'The care and management of domesticated Asian elephants in Lao PDR', in Baker I & Kashio, M (eds), Giants On Our Hands: Proceedings of the International Workshop on the domesticated Asian elephant, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, pp 172-180.
  2. ^ Norachack, B 2002, 'The care and management of domesticated Asian elephants in Lao PDR', in Baker I & Kashio, M (eds), Giants On Our Hands: Proceedings of the International Workshop on the domesticated Asian elephant,FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, pp 172-180.
  3. ^ ElefantAsia 2008, Fields of Action, 22 April 2008, http://www.elefantasia.org/spip.php?article52&lang=en
  4. ^ Lao National Tourism Authority, 2008, Vientiane, Lao PDR
  5. ^ Elefantasia, 2008, Mobile Veterinary Unit, http://www.elefantasia.org/spip.php?article9&lang=en
  6. ^ Norachack, B 2002, 'The care and management of domesticated Asian elephants in Lao PDR', in Baker I & Kashio, M (eds), Giants On Our Hands: Proceedings of the International Workshop on the domesticated Asian elephant,FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, pp 172-180.
  7. ^ Maurer, G 2008, Breeding, 20 April 2008,http://www.elefantasia.org/spip.php?article50&lang=en
  8. ^ Norachack, B 2002, 'The care and management of domesticated Asian elephants in Lao PDR', in Baker I & Kashio, M (eds), Giants On Our Hands: Proceedings of the International Workshop on the domesticated Asian elephant,FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, pp 172-180.

External links[edit]