The children of Sayaboury get up close and personal with the endangered Asian elephant.
It was the great American comedian W.C. Fields that said “Never work with children or animals”. However never the faint hearted, the ECC team rise to the challenge and plough ahead with their new “Kids in Conservation” programme located at the Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury which indeed works with both animals and children.
Travelling by boat across the tranquil Nam Tien lake, participants of the ECC’s programme excitedly arrive ready to get up close and personal with the inhabitants at the Elephant Conservation Center.
Four groups of twenty children were each chosen from the primary school of Natonoy in Sayaboury town to attend the Center under the ‘Kids in Conservation’ programme, an initiative designed to promote literacy in rural schools and increase awareness of the endangered species, the Asian elephant elephas maximus.
Over four consecutive days, each group spent an entire afternoon at the Center enjoying a whole host of environmental based, fun activities. Activities included visit to the elephant museum which contains 27 tri-lingual information boards; books; DVDs and puzzles on the subject of the Asian elephant. The visit to the museum set in a traditional Tai Lue stilted house was completed with the children competing in a game of “Spot the difference” between the African and Asian elephant.
Tours of the elephant hospital conducted by ElefantAsia veterinarian, Oui Sakornwimon, were well received with the youngsters enthusiastically asking many questions relating to the treatment of elephants under the care of the hospital.
A short walk into the 100 hectares of natural forest surrounding the ECC was rewarded with a visit to the elephant nursery to view the mothers and baby elephants residing there. However the highlight of the children’s visit was most definitely the elephant trek when each of the school pupils had the opportunity to ride in a ‘howdah’ or elephant chair placed on the elephant’s back. This experience was closely followed by the elephant bathing observed by the children after enjoying light refreshments served at the Center’s restaurant.
All too soon it was time for the children to return home taking with them memories of the Elephant Conservation Center. As a memento of their day with the elephants, each child received a Lao language storybook and posters for their school to promote reading as an enjoyable activity in and out of the classroom.
Owing to the success of this pilot programme, ElefantAsia, already plan to implement further half day elephant adventures for the children of Sayaboury. This surely puts paid to Mr Fields’ comic advice!
ElefantAsia’s ‘Kids in Conservation’ programme was organised in collaboration the District Education Department. Activities were sponsored by Eco-Sys and several Australian donors, whilst resources for the children were donated by Xang Noi Publishing and ElefantAsia.