Traditional Mahout Knowledge Conservation
It is important to conserve traditional mahout knowledge in the fields of husbandry, breeding, training and medicinal plants. We invite mahouts from Hongsa and Thongmixay districts (Sayaboury province) to join us for a series of interviews and workshops where they will share their experience with our team and other mahouts so that this ancestral knowledge is not lost forever and is passed on to future generations of elephant keepers. Laos is an oral culture where knowledge is mainly passed on from father to son with very limited written documents. We believe it is integral to our work, as a conservation project, to secure this knowledge and help transmitt it. We have set up a formal plan to interview older mahouts, chamans and elephant owners. Audio and video are used to record participants and translation allows for formal ethnographic work. Results will lead to a scientific publication and will lead to the creation of a series of technical workshops for younger mahouts to attend. We hope that younger mahouts will be able to learn about the use of medicinal plants to cure their elephants and improve their control over their elephants without resorting to unnecessary violence by following the rules established by their older fellow mahouts. ‘Musth control’ is also part of the scheme as many young mahouts have no experience in dealing with this sudden rise in testosterone in male elephants.
Encourage elephant natality
Our breeding programme aims at increasing the number of elephant biths in Laos
Mahouts Vocational Training
Support the reconversion of logging mahouts into ecotourism
Re-create social bonds within our elephant group at the 'Socialization Area'.
Problems connected to the ‘generation gap’ currently hitting the Lao mahout community are numerous. Ranging from inappropriate response to untrained calves to a lack of experience in dealing with elephants in musth or lack of basic veterinary training to cope with first aid needs. Solutions come from interviewing older mahouts and bringing them together with younger ones to share their experience. A huge amount of useful techniques and know how, otherwise on the brink of extinction, can be preserved and transmitted to young mahouts, for better management of the current domesticated elephant population.
The establishment of the “Mahout School” enables centuries of old traditions to be saved and shared with future generations, and allow young Mahouts to benefit from the knowledge of the more experienced members of the community. English lessons provide Mahouts with the ability to converse directly with their clients.The idea of a Mahout School comes directly from the Mahout community itself. Mahouts have requested assistance to find new ways to earn a living with their elephants, fully aware of the risk of extinction threatening their elephants and their craft.
As stated previously, providing young Mahouts with the necessary tools to work within the tourism industry would help gather enthusiastic young Mahouts at the school, who will eventually be hired by the tourism industry when their training is over.