The Elephant Conservation Center’s mission is to start a new era for conservation of the Asian elephant within the Lao PDR and to offer a unique experience to visitors wishing to contribute towards the protection of an endangered species.
The Center was launched in 2011. It is managed by a team of elephant specialists that have been working towards the protection of elephants in Laos for over a decade, running welfare, vetcare, breeding and mahouts training programmes.
“Domesticated elephants in Laos are traditionally used in logging. Worked to the point of exhaustion, these elephants are not reproducing, with life spans, birth rates and quality of life considerably below acceptable standards.”
With only two elephants born for every ten that die, the Asian elephant, the sacred national emblem of Laos, is under serious threat of extinction. If immediate action is not taken, the Lane Xang or ‘Land of a Million Elephants’, stands to lose not only its elephant populations, but a major component of Lao cultural heritage.
With these threats in mind, the ECC:
- Encourages elephant natality through our baby bonus and breeding programmes
- Offers quality health services at the elephant hospital
- Implements a re-herding program for elephants (socialization area)
- Reconverts logging elephants and mahouts into fair, environmentally friendly ecotourism
- Ensures the viability of the ECC through visits on site
- Raises awareness about the condition of Lao elephants
The Elephant Conservation Center mainly ensures its financial viability through paid visits of the site and private donations. The ECC also receives support from partner foundations and organisations as listed on our homepage. Beyond contributing to the protection of a highly endangered species from regional extinction, the ECC ensures a sustainable and fair income for mahouts and their families.
By visiting the ECC, you support an environmentally friendly and fair business approach. Your visit protects ancestral cultures, knowledge and traditions as well as a rich and fragile tropical ecosystem.
Why are we different?
- Rather than taking elephants from their natural home into urban tourist areas, we take YOU to THEM, in their undisturbed natural environment;
- Through our elephant breeding incentive programme and the elephant hospital, the money you pay sustains elephant conservation across the country;
- Elephants at the Center are here to rest, either waiting to give birth or recovering from an exhausting life in logging or mass tourism industries. Do NOT expect to see package tours riding our elephants all day long!
- Our elephants inhabit 530 hectares of protected forest set by the Nam Tien lake providing sufficient quantity and variety of natural fodder;
- Elephant welfare is at the core of the ECC project based on the five freedoms of animals under human care (see below);
- Our professional staff (veterinarian, vet assistant, and biologist) take care of the hospital, nursery, and re-herding program and will happily share their experiences with you.;
- Our facilities are ecologically friendly utilising solar power and water from the lake which we filter. We produce elephant dung paper and our printed communications are produced using recycled paper and soy inks. To reduce the use of new building materials, our infrastructure uses old traditional Lao houses relocated to the Center;
- Overall, the Center is a place of learning.
The Five Freedoms (Source: OIE International)
1. Freedom from malnutrition
- by providing ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
2. Freedom from thermal and physical discomfort
- by providing an appropriate environment including shelter, shade, access to bathing facilities and social interaction with other elephants
3. Freedom from injury or disease
by providing :
- Experienced mahouts or keepers who can handle the elephants without causing injury.
- Preventative health care
- Access to veterinary care
4. Freedom from fear and stress
- by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering:
- Limited use of bull hook (ankus), and efforts made to phase out its use for positive reinforcement training techniques.
- Minimize public contact
- Elephants free to move at will, escape and find refuge
- Maintain elephants in social groups when at rest
- Elephants should not be tethered except for welfare reasons
5. Freedom to express normal patterns of behavior
- By providing sufficient space and areas where elephants are able and encouraged to dig, bathe, dive, forage, dust bathe etc and company of other elephants ideally in a social structure of mixed sex and age