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Aging elephants at Vietnam tourism site released to wild

Friday, July 05, 2019, 15:45 GMT+7
Aging elephants at Vietnam tourism site released to wild
A tourist engages in elephant watching activity in Yok Don National Park, located in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, Vietnam. Photo: V.T. / Tuoi Tre

Efforts by Animals Asia, a Hong Kong-based foundation championing compassion and respect for animals worldwide, have helped two more elephants in Dak Lak Province, located in Vietnam’s Central Highlands region, find their way back to the wild.

P’Lu and Bun Kon, the two elephants aged 60 and 37, respectively, had spent years giving rides to tourists in Dak Lak Province before they were released back into the wild in Yok Don National Park in Buon Don District on Tuesday.

According to an Animals Asia representative, the foundation was able to reach an agreement with Anh Duong Company, the firm which manages the tourist site where the giant mammals were held, to stop using elephants at its site and allow for their release.

The agreement will last for one year and is expected to be renewed in the future.

Following P’Lu and Bun Kon, Anh Duong Company said it plans to send the four remaining elephants in its in-service herd to the national park for more elephant-friendly tourism activities.

An elephant transports people in the Central Highlands Province of Dak Lak. Photo: Trung Tan / Tuoi Tre

An elephant transports people in the Central Highlands Pprovince of Dak Lak. Photo: Trung Tan / Tuoi Tre

P’Lu and Bun Kon are two of the latest examples of elephants released thanks to Animals Asia’s efforts over the last four years to conserve Vietnam’s last remaining wild elephants and improve the welfare of captive animals in the country.

The foundation has been working in Dak Lak since 2015 to encourage elephant owners to allow their animals to roam and search for food freely in the national park so that they can reap the benefits of improved health, longevity, and fertility.

In July 2018, Animals Asia granted Yok Don National Park US$65,000 to support its transition to elephant watching tourism between July 2018 and July 2023. 

The transition required the park to commit itself to the development of tourist treks through the forest to observe elephants in their natural habitat.

Two elephants roam freely in Yok Don National Park, the Central Highlands Province of Dak Lak. Photo: V.T / Tuoi Tre

Two elephants roam freely in Yok Don National Park, located in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak. Photo: V.T. / Tuoi Tre

The animal-friendly movement has since benefited six elephants in Dak Lak, including three in the national park, one belonging to a local resident, and the two released by Anh Duong.

The transition has also resulted in more widespread awareness of the plight of elephants in Buon Don District and throughout Vietnam.

“The tourists to the national park enjoy biking and watching the elephants in the natural environment,” said Nguyen Tuan Linh, director of the Yok Don National Park.

An elephant roams freely in the wild in the Central Highlands Province of Dak Lak. Photo: Trung Tan / Tuoi Tre

An elephant roams freely in the wild in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak. Photo: Trung Tan / Tuoi Tre

As Yok Don National Park is the first place to pilot the shift from elephant rides, Animals Asia expects the model to be applied in national parks and nature reserves across the country. 

“The program will be launched not only for elephants, but also for other wildlife species,” said the foundation’s animal welfare officer Nguyen Tam Thanh.

According to data from the Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center, the province was home to more than 500 elephants in 1980, but that figure has fallen to about 40, most of which are old, weak, and have low fertility caused by hard work and poor breeding.

An elephant taken care by the Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center roams freely in the wild. Photo: V.T / Tuoi Tre

An elephant tended by the Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center roams freely in the wild. Photo: V.T. / Tuoi Tre

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