Traditional Mahout Knowledge Conservation

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-herding programme

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.

paul_wager_2007_10We need your support to fund the tansportation, food and accommodation of 8 older mahouts from two districts of Xayaboury province and the field mission of one ethnographer + associated technical costs (recorder)





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