Several employees and mahouts of a tourist area in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak have been cutting the hair off elephants’ tails in order to sell it as lucky charms.
It is a common situation at Buon Don Tourism Area in Dak Lak, as visitors have been offered the tail hair by several staffers.
An investigation by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on February 12 and 13 revealed that many tourists were solicited by tour guides during their rides on the animals.
As soon as the deal was made, the guides would ask the mahouts to cut hair from the elephants and sell it to the buyers as lucky charms.
Several souvenir stores at the facility were also selling black strings, about 20 centimeters in length and two millimeters in diameter, purported to be elephant tail hair, with one location even offering a whole tail for buyers to select hair from.
“This tail was cut off from a dead elephant, so I can assure you that the product is real. After buying the hair, you can ask your jeweler to add it to your gold or silver rings to make them good luck charms,” one of the shopkeepers said in promoting his goods.
Those who questioned the authenticity of the hair opted to contact their tour guides and quickly received their response.
The mahouts were then asked to bring the elephants toward to the tourists so they picked their preferred hair as well as preparing a large nail clipper to remove the hair from the elephants once the buyers had made their decision.
Over ten strings of hair were cut off from one elephant, whose lengths were between 10 and 15 centimeters, and within five to ten minutes sold for VND300,000 (US$13.41).
About ten elephants are raised in the tourist area to serve as pleasure rides for visitors, and whose tail hair is all removed, according to the Tuoi Tre reporters.
Two men are seen cutting the hair off an elephant’s tail. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Can Dinh Chinh, director of Dien Bien Company which manages the Buon Don Tourism Area, confirmed that such incidents happen often at the facility, adding that the firm cannot stop the situation as the elephants belong to their owners, who are also the mahouts.
“Our company can only encourage the owners not to remove the hair of the elephants’ tails in order to ensure the health of their animals,” Chinh said.
In response to the Tuoi Tre findings, the director said that he would carry out an inspection on his employees.
“Our policy is to prohibit employees from selling the elephant hair. Several individuals have decided to do it to earn some extra money,” Chinh explained.
The hair of elephants’ tails is believed to be a good luck charm, especially in romantic relationships, following a legend that forms part of the culture of Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
However, Linh Nga Nie K’Dam, who has spent 40 years studying the area, refuted the truthfulness of the story, saying that it was fabricated by the sellers to attract more customers.