Tourism for Conservation
Living within deprived rural areas of the Lao PDR, the stark reality for many mahouts is: no work = no money = no survival. As a consequence many of Laos’ 450 domesticated elephants work within a lucrative logging industry. A sector which takes advantage of the poor socio economic status in Laos and the domesticated elephant population, utilising this endangered species as a necessary tool for logging in hilly and remote areas, inaccessible using conventional methods.
Working within the logging industry is a dangerous occupation for an elephant, with many suffering from injuries such as broken legs; abscesses; foot injuries and even death. Physical exhaustion and malnutrition are also issues of great concern.
Mahouts Vocational Training
Support the reconversion of logging mahouts into ecotourism
Provide an apropriate natural environment and quality care services to Lao elephants
Awareness & Education
Outreach environmental education for children and Awareness raising campaigns
The ECC provides vocational training for mahouts keen to develop a career within ecotourism such as English language skills and guiding training. The benefits of a lighter workload for both the mahout and the elephant are thoroughly explained. The pros and cons of work in tourism, a new economic sector usually not familiar to the mahouts, also form part of the training. Usually such training programmes would be reliant on donations or financial assistance from external bodies, however this is where the ECC differs, effectively supporting conservation and education through tourism.
At ECC, visitors can observe or interact with Asian elephants in a safe environment that promotes elephant physical and cognitive health, as well as social and reproductive opportunities. This includes the viewing, bathing or feeding of elephants under our care.
Responsible elephant tourism is rarely ideal. The ideal is that Asian elephants return to and live in the wild. The reality however, is that this would possibly result in species extinction across many parts of developing Asia. ECC hopes there will be a point in time when captive elephants can be returned to the wild and live free from fear of harm or death brought on by mankind. Our endorsement of responsible elephant tourism is therefore a practical compromise solution, and one which we hope to be able to lift in the future – when it becomes safe for elephants to return to their natural environments.
Although tourism can have negative impacts on the environment and the traditional values of local ethnic people, the ECC will never become a destination for mass tourism thus allowing the establishment to mitigate its minimal impacts. Through a sound business approach, the Conservation Center installs fair and eco-sensitive tourism practices that benefit our planet. Investing in the conservation of an endangered species, the Asian elephant and critical habitat, the ECC also provides a sustainable source of income for some of the world’s poorest communities.
With a percentage from each and every visit to the Center contributing to the running costs of our conservation and educational programmes, our guests leave knowing they have made a difference to securing the elephant populations in Laos and the ancient art of mahoutship, whilst also supporting the economic development of local people.
HOW CAN YOU HELP ? Your visit at the Center is your contribution! You can continue to support the Center if you appreciated your stay with us! Any donation reinforces our financial ability to rescue more elephants, purchase more land and employ more Lao mahouts.