History: Suriya came from Ban Vieng Keo, Hongsa. Suriya was one month old when he arrived at the ECC with his mother Mae Ven. The name “Suriya” (“sun ray”) has been chosen when he was 3 years old by picking up sugarcane bearing this name amongst 3 different ones. At the same age, Suriya has been the first captive elephant in Lao PDR being educated by the technique named “positive reinforcement”. He is still learning with his mahouts and can be a bit naughty on occasions. He was the first calf to be integrated into the herding area. Now that Suriya is growing up in an elephant herd he has many females that can take care of him, so he can spend a lot of time either with his mother Mae Ven or with the other elephants who act as aunties.  In the near future, Suriya will start to spend time with other males, so they can teach him male specific behaviours, which would be extremely important for his development as a male elephant.

Distinguishing features: small tusks, athletic body, grey skin with no freckles

Personality traits: Suriya loves playing with the two other juveniles Dor Khoun Meuang and Noy. He is very curious, social and fearless.

Paternity: not yet!

  • Gender: Male
  • Year of birth: November 2011
  • Arrived at the ECC: December 2011
  • Weight (2019): 1200 kg
Close-up of the elephant in the Elephant Conservation Center, Sayaboury, Laos, in December 2018. Laos was known as ‘The land of a million elephants’ in the past, today the elephant population in the country stands at around 800 individuals. Half of them is made up of captive elephants, and their number is in decline; the owners are not interested in breeding animals (the cow needs at least four years out of work during her pregnancy and lactation), illegal trafficking to China and other neighboring countries continues. Against this backdrop, the Elephant Conservation Center is the only one organization in Laos who is interested in maintaining the population and breeding of elephants. They have the only elephant hospital and research laboratory in Laos. The Center was created in 2011, and now the team is protecting 29 elephants that had been working in the logging industry or mass tourism, and 530 hectares of forest around Nam Tien Lake in Sayaboury. ‘If we have extra money, we buy an elephant,’ says Anthony, the manager. The primary goal of the Center, besides conservation and breeding, is to reintroduce socially coherent groups of healthy elephants to a natural forest where they can contribute to the increase of the wild population. For this reason, a special socialization programme has been developed by the biologists, where domesticated elephants learn to communicate and survive in the wild under the supervision of specialists. ‘There are not enough elephants in Laos,’ says Chrisantha, the biologist of the center. ‘We need around 5000 of a species to sustain a population, and we are nowhere near that. The efforts we are making now at least give a bit of hope for the future.’ (Photo by Oleksandr Rupeta)