Freedom At Last!

Releasing Elephants in Nam Pouy Protected Area

A Historical Event


In March 2019, the ECC made Lao history by releasing 5 elephants into the wild. After a lengthy process aiming at creating a compatible elephant herd (a vital prerequisite), elephants were eventually released into the wild on March, 18th, 2019.

The elephants have been microchipped and their ex-mahouts keep track of their whereabouts using direct observation and GPS tracking during their patrols in the Nam Pouy National Protected Area.

So far, this experiment has been highly successful and we are extremely proud of our team for offering these elephants a new life. Of course, this couldn’t have been possible without our supporters who we wish to thank here for their trust and donations!

From Slavery to Freedom

As a reminder, a group of 16 elephants was rescued from an attempt to illegally smuggle them to a Zoo in the Middle East in 2018. The Lao Government took 12 of them to the ECC as a show of trust in our project. The ECC experts decided to include 5 of them in the ‘Back to the Wild’ programme past their herding period. Rewilding was possible thanks to intense cooperation between ECC’s Biology Department and ECC Mahouts whose knowledge proved essential in carrying out this experiment.

Rewilding a group of elephants requires following social patterns found in the wild. The group we released consisted of four adult female elephants and one male calf.

Over the past 12 months, the rangers patrolled 19,500 hectares of forest to track the group of 5 which has so far been in contact with a group of wild elephants inhabiting the Protected Area.


From 390 Ha of land used during the first month of the release, in March 2019, the current area used by the group of 5 elephants spans a whopping 19,500 Ha.

“The thing I think about most is that the calf tries to kill me all the time”. Falshaw knows that the creature’s new bravery is a sign of the rewilding project’s success. – India Bourke. NEW STATESMAN

There are so many essential parameters needed to successfully release elephants.

First, we need to secure support from the Authorities in charge of the Park and convince them that the released elephants will not wreak havoc in neighbouring villages. For this, we need to design a mitigation plan involving deterrents and a formal management plan for the protected area. Then, we need the Armed Forces’ full cooperation to ensure the protection of the released elephants from poaching. We also need trained rangers and to provide them with the necessary tools to enforce the law. Of course, the released groups must have already formed strong social bonds to survive in the wild. And last but not least, the land used for reintroduction must be large enough to accommodate the gentle giants and provide them with sufficient food.

We are lucky to have access to this pristine and rich ecosystem and be backed up by a wonderful team of rangers and a supportive Government to undertake our mission.