During the 2012 elephant festival held in Sayaboury, we were really glad to welcome Ms. Connie Speight at the Elephant Conservation Center for her second visit there. Connie is the founder of the Elephants Umbrella Fund, from California, USA. Through her Fund, Connie rescues elephants that are over exploited by the logging industry and places them in sanctuaries throughout Asia. Connie has supported the purchase of our 4 permanent elephants, Mae Dok, Mae Boun Nam, Mae Kham Ohn and Phu Thongkoon. It has been an honor to welcome her at the ECC where she will always be our guest. Connie has made plans to come back to Laos next fall. Hopefully by then, our elephant herd will have increased and more elephants will have been saved from logging camps.
Prior to this year's Elephant Festival, NGO ElefantAsia celebrates the official opening of their Mahout School established at the Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) in Sayaboury province, northern Laos.
Attended by the Vice Governor of Sayaboury province, Mr. Gnalgnong Sipaseuth and Mr. Yves Fromion, MP Dear, chairman of the friendship group France-Laos and Mayor of Aubigny-sur-Nere, the inauguration ceremony included the unveiling of a plaque of appreciation, giving thanks to all donors including the Toyota Foundation, the Mayor of Aubigny-sur-Nere and ATG Trust that contributed towards the creation of the Mahout School.
Situated on the banks of the Nam Tien, the ECC set in 106 hectares is currently home to a herd of 10 Asian elephants, including three babies. The Center, in collaboration with ElefantAsia, is designed to promote conservation of an endangered species through ecotourism. The Center's primary focus being to increase reproduction within the remaining captive elephant population through the implementation a managed breeding programme.
ElefantAsia also promotes the reconversion of logging elephants to other financially viable options such as ecotourism. Set in a traditional Lao house previously owned by a mahout family in Hongsa, the Mahout School will be utilised to assist with this transition into tourism as well as preserve century-old traditions connected with elephant ownership.
With fewer young mahouts taking over their father's elephants, traditional knowledge passed down verbally in Lao culture is being lost; the Mahout School will provide opportunity for elder mahouts to transfer knowledge to future generations of elephant handlers.
Sixty-five working elephants participated in this year's Elephant Festival held in Sayaboury and as usual the ElefantAsia team were on hand to offer veterinary care and treatment for these animals.
Working from the NGO's mobile veterinary unit and as such within the capabilities and limits of the equipment and resources carried by the vehicle, treatment can at times frustratingly fall short of the elephants needs. However with the opening of the Laos' first elephant hospital at the Elephant Conservation Center located in Sayaboury province, this lack of proper treatment and care facilities for pachyderms is now a thing of the past.
Receiving its first two patients post festival, the ElefantAsia veterinary team based at the Center have diligently started to care for tuskers Phu Thongkhoun and Phu Thongkham.
The festival's Elephant of the Year 2012, 46 year old Phu Thongkhoun was hospitalised for three days receiving treatment for an abscess on his back. Every day local disinfectant and pain relief was administered, whilst the wound treated through curettage.
Also aged 46, logging elephant Phu Thongkham arrived at the hospital requiring treatment to an infected cornea and severed tail. With the infection commencing several months ago through a suspected foreign located in the eye, the team set about tranquilising the elephant to complete a full investigation of the animals right eye, no foreign body was found. Full vision in the elephant's eye may not be restored, however a topic and general treatment was administered three times a day to control the infection, ease the pain and assist with the healing of the cornea.
From top to tail, Phu Thongkham had also suffered a severed tail at the beginning of February this happening whilst working in the logging industry. On first inspection at the festival, the ElefantAsia team found the wound to be awfully infected and purulent (containing bacteria forming pus). The wound was cleaned, antiseptic administered and bandaged daily, whilst antibiotics and pain relief given to control the infection and ease the elephants pain.
Phu Thongkhoun has now made a full recovery and has travelled home to again commence work in the logging trade. Phu Thongkham's progress is a little slower due to extent of his injuries; he will stay at the hospital up to 2 weeks more. The infected eye is now open and his vision returning, there is still pus present, but the discharge has now ceased. Treatment is slow and difficult, but the infection is lessening. His tail is also healing very nicely.
The Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury proudly announces the arrival of 29 year old male tusker, Phu Thongkoon. Born in Hongsa district, Phu Thongkhoon worked in the logging industry until recently when he was rescued by the Center with the assistance of The Elephants Umbrella Fund.
Overworked, Phu Thongkoon arrived at the ECC weak and malnourished, suffering also from a painful abscess located on his back. The ElefantAsia veterinarian team based at the Center wasted no time in treating their new patient, supplementing the elephant's diet with vitamins and daily intake of locally grown vegetation with sticky rice to assist with weight gain, whilst cleansing and treating the abscess.
Phu Thongkoon will now take rest from his long and strenuous career within the logging industry and enjoy the tranquil setting of the Elephant Conservation Center. However it will not be all fun and games for this young tusker, Phu Thongkoon has a vital role to play in the saving of the Asian elephant from extinction in Laos. So, no pressure!
With current birth ratios in Laos at 3-5 per annum versus an average annual death rate of 15, there is a need to drastically increase the elephant births within the remaining captive population.
ElefantAsia in collaboration with the ECC is implementing the country's first ever managed breeding programme. Once in full health, Phu Thongkoon will be used to sire some of the females residing at the Center, as well as other cows whose owners wish to breed their elephant. ElefantAsia hopes that waiving the costly stud fee usually implicated with such service will promote further breeding opportunities amongst mahout communities.