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Programme & Price (Vet)
Veterinary Program Information Pack
In Association with ElefantAsia
The "Veterinary Program" aims to provide a sound coverage of the role of veterinary science in developing countries and the specific veterinary requirements in the case of Asian Elephants. It is run by the Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) in conjunction with ElefantAsia.
In addition to equipping attendees with a basic skill set for the veterinary care of Asian elephants through practical sessions and theoretical lectures the course aims to raise awareness of the role of veterinarians in conservation and grass-roots level research.
We pride ourselves on offering a unique and personal experience. Our team fully appreciate that in large groups it is often difficult for everyone to become involved in practical sessions so we limit course numbers to a maximum of 5 people. This allows us to give everyone our full attention to discuss cases and provide hands-on veterinary experience.
The majority of the course is based at the ECC, Sayabouri where the elephant hospital is based.
All attendees are expected to be closely involved with the running of the hospital, from administrative work through to implementing new protocols and training local staff. The presence of clinical cases at the Hospital is unpredictable and cannot be guaranteed, however, whenever possible everyone is encouraged to be involved in case planning and management with a substantial component of supervised hands-on involvement.
On arrival at the ECC all participants will choose a research project that they are then responsible for working on over the 12 days, culminating in presentations to the group on the last day. These projects can be anything from literature reviews through to behavioral studies or clinical case reports.
There is a program of lectures and practical sessions prepared by our qualified vets (see itinerary) during the course, in addition there will be opportunities for informal discussion sessions on topics of particular interest depending on the clinical workload.
In addition to the hospital based course you will have the unique opportunity to undertake a field trip to a logging camp to observe these incredible animals at work and to participate in an ongoing research project.
This is undoubtedly a real highlight as it's a sight not many people have seen...
Our veterinary team is frequently called to medical emergencies across the country for a variety of reasons. If the situation allows you may have the opportunity to accompany our mobile veterinary unit into the field to deal with these cases (please note that this may not be possible due to the temperament of the elephant, government permission and other factors). These missions are unique in Laos and provide an unparalleled opportunity to gain an insight into the exciting work of a wildlife veterinarian.
There will also be some discussion sessions with leaders in the fields of conservation, from WWF/IUCN in Vientiane to the head of the Laos Mahout Association which will provide a clear perspective of the role of veterinarians in the conservation sphere.
By the end of the course we hope that participants appreciate the difference between working in a wildlife capacity compared to domestic veterinary work. Have a working knowledge of the principles of pharmacology and case management in asian elephants and understand the symbiotic relationship of conservation with the clinical program.
Please note that Laos is a dynamic country and our work is unpredictable. This itinerary is subject to change depending on clinical cases, weather and events outside our control.
Day 1 – Vientiane (Sunday)
Participants arrange their own transport to the Villa Lao Guesthouse (details included at end of information pack).
Our program starts at 7pm when an ElefantAsia representative will meet the group for dinner and an informal introduction to Laos culture and working environment.
Day 2 – Vientiane to Elephant Conservation Center (ECC)
0900 – 1100:
After breakfast, collection and transfer from the guesthouse to an introductory talk on the current conservation status of Asian Elephants in Laos and SE Asia at the ElefantAsia/IUCN/WWF/WCS office.
Minivan transfer to Wattay Airport (Vientiane) to catch the 60 min flight to Sayaboury. Picnic lunch will be provided for the flight.
1400: Arrival in Sayaboury and transfer to the Elephant Conservation Center.
After you settle into your accommodation you'll meet the on site vet who will give you a brief tour of the hospital and the center. You will be introduced to the running of the hospital, which you will be expected to participate in closely during your stay.
There will be a health and safety briefing regarding working with these mega-herbivores and the hospital and veterinary environment.
Before supper you'll have time to enjoy the Centre's facilities (visit the elephant museum and boutique, watch the elephants bathe in the lake and maybe even take a dip yourself afterwards!).
Dinner at the center is eaten Lao-style, communally with all the staff.
Day 3 – ECC
AM: After breakfast, we will take you on a full tour of the Center and introduce you to all the staff. You will meet the ECC herd of elephants and learn how to mount and dismount, together with basic vocal commands used by all mahouts in Laos.
After your encounter with these majestic animals you will choose and discuss a research project with your supervisor that you are expected to work on throughout your time at the ECC.
PM: In the afternoon you will be introduced to the veterinary care of elephants and the role of veterinarians in a developing countries through a series of short presentations and discussions. Time is allocated to start planning the research project.
Day 4 – ECC
AM: We spend the morning discussing "nutrition and diet" of captive elephants and formulate diet plans for the resident elephants.
Our elephants will come for their daily training session where you will learn the basics of how to train an elephant through hands on practice.
PM: In the afternoon, we will start with a short lecture on population management of wild and captive elephants before commencing the monthly stock take of the drugs in the hospital with the hospital staff.
Following this we will cover reproduction, pregnancy and neonatal care in anticipation of the nursery health check tomorrow morning.
Day 5 – ECC
AM: Today we start very early in order to accompany the mahouts from the nursery to do the heath check of the mothers and calves. Breakfast is served on our return.
We will continue with our training of the elephants as well as enjoying a mahout lesson including the use of indigenous commands.
PM: This afternoon comprises a Wet Lab practical checking the samples taken from our morning health check including any additional diagnostic tests required (blood smears, FECs etc).
If we have time we will discuss the common medical issures affecting captive elephants.
Tonight the group will leave the center for a meal in a local restaurant along with the vet team.
Day 6 to Day 8 – Field Trip to Logging Camp
Homestay in Traditional Village
Visit to observe elephants at work – a sight very few people have ever seen! Meeting with the head of the Lao Mahout Association
(subject to availability and relevant permits from local authorities. The location and programme for these days may vary)
Day 9 – ECC
AM: After breakfast we will have a "Questions and Answers" session covering all topics raised during the field trip and to check on the progress of research projects.
We will then carry out a full health check of the adult elephants at the centre, with you taking the lead putting into practice your knowledge gained so far.
PM: The afternoon is spent in the Lab with samples from the morning health check as well as spending time on your projects. If time allows you will also be given a lecture on pharmacology in asian elephants.
After supper we'll take the boat to a revered 'Buddha Footprint' on the bank of the lake followed by a night trek back to the ECC (keeping our eyes out for the jungle nightlife).
Day 10 – ECC
AM: After breakfast, we will discuss foot care in elephants. In the late morning the elephants come for their daily training session and you will carry out routine foot trimming as well as dealing with any problems they may have developed (problems are pretty much guaranteed here!).
PM: In the afternoon we will trek to the elephant nursery to check on the calves. On our return to the Hospital we will give you all a case that we've dealt with (including blood results and other clinical information). Using your knowledge and the available veterinary resources you will come up with a diagnosis and a plan of action which we'll all discuss as a group after supper.
Day 11 – ECC
AM: Following a presentation on sedation and capture in wild and domestic elephants we will have a Practical session on using the dart gun (not using our elephants as targets!).
PM: In the afternoon, you will have a discussion with the older mahouts to gain an insight into their extensive knowledge about traditional herbal medicine. Much of this knowledge is based on fact and has been passed down through many generations.
Before supper we will discuss the differences between elephants in the logging and tourism industries and the different medical problems they encountered.
Day 12 – Sayabouri
AM: Today we will embark on an all day adventure in Sayabouri starting with a morning kayaking trip down the Nam Houng River. Arriving for lunch at the Nam Houeysai Herbal Spa and Botanical Garden.
PM: After lunch in these incredible surrounds you can enjoy a traditional lao massage and sauna and a refreshing swim in the crystal clear river.
On our return to the ECC we'll have an departure celebration with all the team.
Day 13 – ECC to Vientiane (Friday)
AM: This morning there's a few hours to wrap up your research projects and present them in an open discussion followed by a final goodbye to the team and elephants.
PM: After lunch you will transfer to Sayabouri airport for the afternoon flight back to Vientiane. You will arrive in Vientiane in the evening welcomed by an ElefantAsia representative for your transfer to the Villa Lao guesthouse.
The Lao National Elephant Care and Management Programme has been working for more than 5 years with the support of the French NGO ElefantAsia. The aim of the programme is to contribute to elephant conservation and welfare, considering the high risk of extinction faced by this species in Laos within the next decades. A mobile clinic was implemented in order to provide veterinary care in the field as well as to train mahouts on elephant management. However, the field conditions often limit the diagnostic capacity and the level of care that can be provided by the veterinary team.
The remote location of many elephants and the need for more comprehensive and long term treatment in many cases led to the foundation of the elephant hospital in Laos. This institution treats elephants suffering from serious diseases that are impossible to diagnose or treat whilst in the field. The hospital will also become a training centre for Laotian veterinarians and technicians, along with having the capacity to undertake clinical and scientific studies on elephant health issues.
The hospital is hosted by The Elephant Conservation Center, an ecotourism and conservation center that supports pregnant elephants, their mahouts and newborns. Located in central Sayabouri Province where the vast majority of the country's elephants live, this institution is closely connected to the mahout community and the livestock authorities
ElefantAsia is a non-profit organisation dedicated towards the conservation and protection of the Asian elephant in Laos. Only 1500 Asian elephants remain in Laos with 500 of these used for domesticated purposes such as logging. If economic pressures and environmental degradation remains unchanged, the Asian elephant in Laos with disappear within only a short number of years.
While the team at ElefantAsia work on many varied and diverse projects, all can be considered to have one thing in common – to protect and conserve the Asian elephant in Laos for future generations to enjoy.
Most of the 500 domesticated elephants of Laos live in remote areas of the country. Mahouts live in the forest with their elephants to source timber for hauling. Despite these geographical obstacles, ElefantAsia aims to improve the sanitary conditions of domesticated elephants by providing mahouts with access to sufficient veterinary care and training needed to care for their sick or injured elephant.
The team at ElefantAsia began Mobile Veterinary Units to provide 'house calls' to domesticated elephants working in remote areas. Operating in the Sayaboury, Vientiane and Champassak provinces of Laos, the Mobile Veterinary Units are especially designed to dispense medical care to domesticated elephants. Unfortunately mahouts only have basic knowledge of modern medical treatments, and their ability to access medications for their elephants is often very limited. Our veterinary team visits logging sites, tourist camps and remote villages where elephants are employed to ensure they are receiving adequate healthcare. This is necessary as vaccinations are not available, vet care is rare and medication dosages are difficult to gauge.
ELEPHANT CONSERVATION CENTER
The Elephant Conservation Center hosts Laos' first hospital dedicated to elephant victims of logging accidents and affected by diseases. Staffed with an international team of elephant Veterinarians, our hospital offers veterinary care services, an emergency unit, laboratory and facilities to control animals prior to surgery.
Working in the logging industry is a dangerous occupation for an elephant with many suffering from serious injuries and disease. Administrating effective treatment cannot usually be conducted in the field. Previously there were no safe option for elephants with heavy wounds and severe infections to receive proper attention.
Now, with the Elephant Hospital fully operational, it is possible to transport sick or injured elephants to the Center where they will receive the best medical care currently available in Laos. With ElefantAsia teams operating in Laos since 2005, a nationwide elephant and mahout database, together with two mobile veterinary clinics, our staff can contact, diagnose, transport and treat elephants in an unprecedented way.
FOOD AND ACCOMMODATION
Accommodation is provided at the ECC in a traditional teak same-sex dormitory. Hot water showers and basins are attached to the dormitory. Every bed has an individual mosquito net. Solar power provides limited energy for charging appliances.
Accommodation in Vientiane is provided at Villa Lao, a traditional Lao home in the heart of the city (www.villa-lao-guesthouse.com).
Accommodation on the field trip may involve staying in guesthouses or homestays in remote villages. These conditions can sometimes be very basic, with no running water or electricity and involve sleeping in large communal rooms. For many these experiences are one of the highlights of their stay!
At the ECC breakfast and supper are eaten at the restaurant and consists of delicious traditional Lao food. The restaurant is vegetarian-friendly and our cooks do not use MSG (monosodium glutamate). The dishes are prepared with fresh produce from the local market and the fruit and vegetables are grown at the Center's gardens.
Lunch is eaten communally with the Lao staff. Fruit, tea, coffee and juice are provided at the hospital throughout the day.
On the field trip meals are often eaten with local families and can sometimes be very simple.
At the ECC an honesty bar system operates where you may take drinks and snacks and enjoy them at the relaxing Sala set at the tip of the peninsula or on the lakes' banks.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The "Elephant Conservation and Veterinary Program" is an intensive, practical program that is run by our Veterinary Team. Sometimes conditions we work in can be basic and lacking many modern comforts. Hours can be long, depending on the need of our cases, and weather can be inclement. This is the reality of working as a wildlife veterinarian in a developing country and these challenges only add to our enjoyment!
However, the ECC provides many of the comforts that you may require during your stay.
Providing you exhibit enthusiasm and a level of competence you will have the opportunity to be directly involved in the treatment of hospitalised elephants which may include; lab work, venupuncture, administrating medicines, ultrasonography etc.
There is an expectation that all participants will be involved in the day to day running of the hospital, including cleaning equipment, stock taking and other non-clinical jobs.
Emphasis is placed on designing and completing short research projects. This may be working on a project currently running, starting a new project or completing a project from start to finish. All participants are encouraged to think about their personal area of interest and discuss this with the supervising veterinarian.
The hospital is fully operational and functioning. We appreciate input from our students and hope that by the end of the course you have a sound knowledge base on both veterinary and conservation aspects of the Asian Elephant. Whilst here you will work hard, but we hope you find it a deeply fulfilling experience... as you WILL make a difference.
CRITERIA FOR ATTENDANCE
All applicants must be at least 18 years old.
Students undertaking veterinary and wildlife based programmes at university will benefit most from this course.
We accept applications from pre-Veterinary students on a case-by-case basis, please contact us to discuss your situation. Please be aware that as this course has a strong clinical theme some practical sessions may not be suitable.
13 day/12 nights
Minimum 3 participants/course: Maximum 5 participants/course
• All meals, accommodation and transport as listed
• All activities as described
• Return Flight Tickets from Vientiane to Sayabouri
• Experienced Vet Lecturers
• Printed Resource Pack
• Personal Money: You may wish to bring some extra money for personal use throughout the course. In our experience personal expenses usually do not exceed $80-100
• Travel Insurance
• Transport to Laos
• Alcoholic Beverages with Meals
WHAT TO BRING
- Mosquito Repellent
- Sun Screen
- Sun Glasses
- Two Prong Travel Adaptor
- Laptop Computer
- Light Walking Shoes (for working with the elephants)
- Sarong (for female guests)
- Head Torch and Batteries
- Lipbalm with Sun Protection
- Personal Medication
Most international flights arrive at Bangkok International Airport.
The easiest and fastest way to get to Vientiane is to fly directly from Bangkok Airport:
Lao Airlines – www.laoairlines.com
Thai Airways – www.thaiairways.com
Alternatively AirAsia (www.airasia.com) operate flights to Udon Thani from where you can transfer to Nong Khai and catch the International Bus to Vientiane.
The overnight train from Bangkok to Vientiane leaves Hualamphong Station at 20:00 and arrives at Nong Khai at 08:25. Connecting trains to Thanaleng (Laos) depart 30 minutes later and take 15 mins. From the Laos train station it is a short Tuk-Tuk journey to Villa Lao.
Day or Night Buses depart from Bangkok's Northern (Mor Chit) Bus Station arriving at Nong Khai (the Lao border) taking 9 hours. It's then an easy bus/tuk tuk crossing to Vientiane.
Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge
Crossing the border at the International Friendship Bridge is very simple. After leaving Thailand there are buses leaving every 10 minutes for the Lao Border. After entering Lao there are many buses and Tuk-Tuks heading into Vientiane (a 15 minute journey).
Visas are issued on arrival at the Lao Border. Please ensure you have US Dollars for your Visa as well as two passport photos and at least two blank pages in your passport.
Visas are valid for 30days and are single entry. They cost in the region of $35 (varying depending on nationality).
Nb. If arriving on the Sunday there is a $1 surcharge for 'overtime'
Ban Nongduang, Sikhottabong District, Vientiane, Laos
Local time is GMT +7 hours.
This varies greatly according to season; it is dry from November to March, with some fog. It then becomes hotter and wet between April and October.
HABITS AND CUSTOMS
Laos is a conservative country and it is therefore necessary to avoid being bare-chested. Always wear at least a t-shirt and shorts. Women should bring a sarong for river bathing.
Food will often include rice, noodles, beef, fish, pork and chicken. Chopped meat or green papaya salad and a large variety of season fruits. Vegetarian options are available.
Please ensure your passport has six months of validity beyond the date of return of your trip.
Visa: A visa is compulsory in Laos. You can obtain one from the Embassy of Laos in your own country, or in most cases a tourist visa for a 30 day stay can be obtained on arrival in Laos (the visa fee is depend on your country of origin and paid in US$, you will also require two passport photographs). Before travelling please check current Laos visa requirements.
There is no compulsory vaccination to travel in Laos. However, we strongly recommend the Tetanus/Polio vaccine, the typhoid vaccination (Typhim VI) and Hepatitis A and B vaccinations. Be careful to ensure that you receive all the vaccinations in sequence. Vaccination against rabies and Japanese Encephalitis are also recommended. Please contact your doctor to discuss this.
MALARIA AND DENGUE FEVER
It is important to protect yourself against mosquitoes, especially at night for malaria and during the day for dengue fever. The best way to do so is to wear light coloured long sleeved tops and trousers, together with mosquito repellent (be aware that mosquitos can bite through tight fitting clothing such as leggings!). Malaria can also be prevented with medication. We will provide you with a mosquito net. Please contact your general practitioner for further information.
It is essential to be in good health for your trip! It maybe advisable to consult with your doctor before leaving. A visit to your dentist is also recommended.
Telephone: (Coralie) : 020-96590665