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Fair Tourism

Monday 18 April 2011, by ElefantAsia

Most domesticated elephants in Laos are employed in the lucrative logging industry. While profitable for mahouts, the work is extremely hard going and elephants often become sick or injured. Worked to the point of exhaustion, these elephants are not reproducing, with life spans, birth ratios and quality of life considerably reduced as a result.

Being physically drained is only one reason why elephants are not reproducing. Mahouts working their female elephants in the logging industry make sure they do not get pregnant, as they simply cannot afford to have an out-of-work elephant for such as long period (approx 3-4 years). Understandingly, an elephant not financially contributing in any way can be an incredible burden to a mahout and his family. The same applies for the elephant’s calf - they are not strong enough to work in the logging camps until they reach the age of 15. Reproduction is simply a too-costly exercise!

Tourism is a wonderful alternative industry to logging for the domesticated elephants of Laos. As long as there aren’t 3 or 4 tourists on the back of the 1 elephant! Ecotourism supplies income for the mahout, while allowing female elephants to work while pregnant without any health risks to her unborn calf. Calves can also generate income as tourists can happily spend hours photographing and feeding them. Importantly, mahouts can use their knowledge of the forest when guiding tourists through their province. This way, mahouts can live close to their families (unlike logging) and still enjoy of working with their elephants. This is important if they want to ensure the next generation is interested in becoming mahouts themselves.

Cruelty-free and quality tourism with elephants is an equitable species conservation plan for domesticated elephants.

- More information on elephant treks

Discover the picturesque landscapes of northern Laos, learn how to drive an elephant, and discover everything about this sacred giant.

Additionally, ElefantAsia has published a brochure called Read Before You Ride: How to choose a quality elephant camp in the land of a million elephants. Click here to read more about this brochure, or click here to download a copy.


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