Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Hà Tĩnh wants urgent protection measures for elephants


HÀ TĨNH — Authorities in the central province of Hà Tĩnh have recommended the formation of a project for the urgent protection of elephants in the province’s Vũ Quang National Park.

The Hà Tĩnh People’s Committee sent a proposal to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Việt Nam Administration of Forestry earlier this week recommending urgent measures to protect the elephants in the park from harm by humans.

National parks in the country are all controlled by the ministry and the administration.

According to the proposal, camera traps in the park photographed two herds of elephants several times, each with at least four elephants. Those pictures helped to prove the existence of elephants inside the park’s territory.

Habitats for elephants are narrowing year after year due to construction revamping forest land and the impacts of climate change, the proposal says. The elephants also face dangers from illegal poaching and attacks by angry nearby residents when they leave the jungle to find food.

The committee suggested a project lasting from 2019 to 2025 to implement urgent initial measures for the protection of the elephants as well as to recover their habitat.

Earlier, the national park conducted projects to collect genes of elephants and other species sharing the same habitats. The park has also worked to prevent conflicts between elephants and nearby residents as well as to stop poaching and illegal logging in the area’s elephant habitats.

According to a previous report by the administration, there were 75 to 130 elephants remaining along the border between Laos and Việt Nam. An updated report on the total number of elephants has yet to come.

The main habitat areas of elephants in the country are Thanh Hóa, Nghệ An, Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Nam and Đồng Nai. — VNS

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Elephants Now In Demand For Their Skin


Recent times have seen the emergence of a dangerous trend that would adversely affect elephant populations everywhere. This is the growing demand for the skins of elephants, especially, of the Asian elephant.

A study, started by an England-based non-governmental organisation called the Elephant Family, has made some startling revelations in this respect. They have carried out a detailed survey of the illegal elephant skin trade that has been in operation since 2014, the results of which are now documented in a publication called ‘Skinned – The growing appetite for Asian elephants’.

The trade in elephant skin products seems to have started in about 2006 in Myanmar, and has now attained a steady annual growth. The skin of an elephant is used to manufacture beads, powdered skin, pieces of treated skin, etc. The powder is used in Chinese-based traditional medicine and pharmaceutical processes which sell under Elephant Skin Powder. Initially, powdered elephant skin was sold as an ingredient in traditional medicine. Thereafter, a new trend emerged where dried elephant skin was carved and polished into prayer beads and other Chinese collectibles with traders extolling the qualities of the blood red hue in the translucent subcutaneous layers.

Elephants are killed, and the skin removed in strips or in large square chunks. Whatever the method used, a large part of the skin not suitable for processing, is left and wasted. There seems to be no justification for killing an elephant for a small part of its skin.

The skin pachydera of an elephant, is 1.9 – 3.2 cm thick. It is thickest on the hind limbs and hindquarters, thinner on the forelimbs and shoulders, and is thinnest on the inside of the ears and around the mouth and anus. The skin though thick is sensitive. The colour of the skin is dark greyish black over most of the body but lighter on the head, trunk and ears. Though the elephant’s skin seems to be tough, it is sensitive in certain areas and susceptible to the ravages of heat and insect pests. Since the skin of an elephant is thick it cannot cool its body easily The warm blood cools as it circulates through the veins in the ear, due to the thin layer of skin that covers the ear. The cooled blood then circulates back into the body, helping reduce the overall body temperature of the elephant. Even though the Asian is the preferred elephant species, skin from the African species is also used. If the skin is needed from a particular part of the body, then the elephant killings will unnecessarily destroy more elephants than are actually needed for the illegal trade.

There is little doubt that the skin trade is alive and is a developing threat to Asian elephants across their range. The Asian elephant is found in the wild in thirteen range states. Their total number has been estimated at between 35,000 and 45,000. In the last century an estimated 90 percent population loss was recorded across their 13 range state, with habitat loss being the main threat. Over 15,000 Asian elephants are held in captivity around the world in zoos, entertainment centres, private ownership and trekking camps.

History has shown that poaching and wildlife trafficking spreads rapidly across countries and continents. The growing number of skin poaching incidents in Myanmar, and the spread of trade across Myanmar, Laos and China shows that this is already happening. Traffickers are actively developing new ways to market elephant skin products, and are selling them to apparently willing customers.

However, the wild elephants in Sri Lanka are not at risk of the demand for elephant skins for the production of ornaments and medicinal powders. The skin trade is in Myanmar where there are plenty of wild elephants. Even so we must be vigilant to ensure that no elephants are poached for the skin trade in the future.

The populations of both, the African and Asian species of elephants are threatened due to conflicts with people, habitat loss and poaching for their ivory. However, the Asian species are also threatened by the illicit live trade for the entertainment industry and the recent poaching for the illegal trade in their skins. The entertainment industry consists mainly of circuses, where elephants are a great attraction.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) through the Convention in Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has recommended that, “All elephant range states have in place legislative, regulatory, enforcement, or other measures to prevent the illegal trade in live elephants”.

Videos posted on marketing sites show images of backyards in Myanmar and Laos being used by traders to carve up chunks of elephant skin, remove the coarse hair with blow-torches and dry it in ovens before grinding it into a fine powder.

The most effective way in which this trade could at least be reduced, if not stopped altogether, is for people not to purchase elephant skin products or ivory products.

However, this would not be a solution if man’s greed to have these items continue. If on the other hand, there is no market or demand for elephant products the elephant will have only an aesthetic value and not a commercial value.

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Emerging touring destinations to wow clients with


From cruising the Antarctic to exploring Colombia’s eclectic wildlife, operators tell Andrew Doherty about emerging touring destinations for 2019.

Discover gastronomic delights in Laos

Like Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, Laos, “the land of a million elephants”, offers an abundance of temples to marvel at, jungles to hike and caves to explore.

Yet this south-east Asian nation doesn’t suffer from the same level of over tourism affecting its neighbours.

Chris Greener, senior product executive at Inside Asia Tours, says the operator has launched new Laos itineraries that take clients away from the crowds, including a gastronomic experience that’s tipped to be a highlight for 2019.

“Laotian food is little-known outside of this fascinating landlocked country. With its unique take on Asian cuisine, the Laotian gastronomic experience is every bit as good,” he says. “Luang Prabang is leading the way in launching the country as a foodie destination, with fine-dining restaurants in abundance and Michelin-starred chef Bee Satongun – voted the best female chef in Asia, 2018 – opening her new Paste at The Apsara restaurant.”

To read the full article, click on the story title.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Vang Vieng Elephant Sanctuary, Laos


Owner calling out to the elephants to start our day and introduce the group.

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Elephant shot dead, armed man in military uniform seen nearby Please credit and share this article with others using this link:https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1577054/elephant-shot-dead-armed-man-in-military-uniform-seen-nearby. View our policies at http://goo.gl/9HgTd and http://goo.gl/ou6Ip. © Bangkok Post Public Company Limited. All rights reserved.


UBON RATCHATHANI: A wild elephant has been found dead with gunshot wounds near a waterfall inside Buntharik-Yod Mon wildlife sanctuary. Photos
from a camera trap showed an armed man in a military uniform of a neighbouring country in the vicinity.

The dead jumbo, aged 25-35 years and weighing 3.5-4.5 tonnes, was found at Huay Sai Yai waterfall on Wenesday evening by wildlife sanctuary officials.

The animal had gunshot wounds to its left hip. It was believed to have been shot 7-8 days ago and to have had a lingering death, said Chaiwat Limlikhitaksornn,
director of the Protected Area Regional Office 9.

Veterinarians and wildlife officials to examined the carcass on Thursday evening.

A single AK-47 bullet was found lodged in the beast's second rib.

Footage from a nearby camera trap showed an armed man wearing a military uniform of a neighbouring country walking inside the wildlife sanctuary,
about one kilometre from the waterfall. The man was carrying an AK-47 rifle and a GPS device, was believed to have been tracking poachers cutting
phayung trees in forest along the border.

There was a high possibility he was involved in the death of the elephant, officials said.

The elephant's carcass was buried, after lime was spread over it for disinfection.

The spent bullet and a report on the animal's death was handed over to police for investigation, to find those involved.

Buntharik district borders the Laos province of Champasak

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Poaching of 55 elephants daily leaves extinction a decade away


As world leaders and conservationists descended on London last week for the Illegal Wildlife Trafficking Conference, the burning question in their minds was: How can trade in ivory, especially in Asian countries be contained?

The fear is that Africa’s elephants could go the way of dinosaurs. Some 20,000 jumbos are killed each year — 55 every single day — mostly for the illegal ivory trade.

The war on the illicit trade was dealt a blow on February 4, when ivory researcher Esmond Martin, who had authored several investigative reports on rhino and ivory smuggling in Kenya and the trade in China, Vietnam, and Laos, was found murdered in his Karen home in Nairobi.

Speaking at the conference, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said Kenya has recorded a significant decline in poaching due to its enhanced wildlife law enforcement efforts and the government’s proactive anti-poaching measures.

“We have revamped and improved training and equipped Kenya Wildlife Service ranger forces that continuously evict poacher elements from the parks,” she said.

The statistics make for gloomy reading, though. The overall number of elephants has declined by about one third over the last decade. Many elephants now live in small and isolated populations. And should the current trends persist, elephants will be wiped out in the next decade.

Data from World Wide Fund for Nature shows that African elephants numbered three to five million in the last century. However, WWF says, their populations were severely reduced to its current levels because of hunting.

In the 1980s, WWF estimates that 100,000 elephants were killed each year, and up to 80 per cent of herds were lost in some regions. In recent years, growing demand for ivory, particularly from Asia, has led to a surge in poaching.

Elephant populations — especially in southern and eastern Africa, which once showed promising signs of recovery — could be at risk due to the recent surge in poaching for the illegal ivory trade. Habitat loss and fragmentation and human-elephant conflict have also been blamed for the decline by WWF.

LEADING TRANSIT ROUTE

Kenya has been identified in various researches as one of the leading transit routes for smuggling ivory out of Africa, with several incidents of ivory seizures and recovery of wildlife carcasses in recent times.

According to KWS, elephant population in early 1970s was about 167,000, but in five decades, it has plummeted to slightly more than 35,000. The Central Africa Republic is the hardest-hit part of the continent, with regional elephant population declining by 64 per cent in a decade, according to the report.

In July 2016, a report showed that Vietnam had emerged as one of the world’s biggest markets for the illegal ivory trade.

The report, titled ‘Vietnam’s illegal ivory trade threatens African elephants’, said no other country in the world is known to be as active in both illegal imports of new raw tusks and illegal exports of the final ivory products.

Ivory researchers Lucy Vigne and Esmond Martin found that the overwhelming majority of raw tusks sold in wholesale in Vietnam are smuggled from Africa, with Mombasa port popping up as the major transit point in the region.

The two researchers who had set out for the study found out the number of items up for sale had risen by over six times from 2008 to 2015.

In total, Vigne and Martin found a whopping 242 open outlets, with 16,099 ivory items on display available for retail sales in Ho Chi Minh city, Buon Ma Thuot town, Hanoi and surrounding villages.

Of these items, 9,893 (61 per cent) were in one of the Northern villages that had not been counted before, with most objects being pendants and small items like jewelry.

This was in contrast to 2,444 items counted in a report published in 2008 by another ivory researcher, Dan Stiles, who also found out that most tusks had originated from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

The research was carried out between November 23 and December 14, 2015. It showed that two thirds of ivory were leaving through the ports of Mombasa, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, going to China and Vietnam.

The Chinese government announced in 2015 that it would phase out the legal ivory trade. This was followed by the reduction of the number of licensed ivory factories from 37 in 2014 to 34 in 2015, and the number of licensed retail outlets from 145 to 130.

Public awareness on the plight of the elephant has been steadily increasing in China, with bloody pictures on the internet and WeChat of poached elephants with tusks hacked out.

And since the ban was looming large, ivory dealers who spoke with researchers thought that their president was being pressurised to close down the country’s legal ivory trade.

They hoped there would not be a sudden ban but a gradual phasing out of ivory. Some hoped the government would buy tusks from private people as a way of compensation, including from Hong Kong traders, to help stop the trade.

Researchers Vigne and Martin would later shift their attention to South East Asian country Laos. They found that the town was becoming one of the fastest growing ivory markets in the world.

There, Chinese were now buying over 80 per cent of ivory in Laos, but the retail prices were lower than in China. They later drafted a report called, ‘The ivory trade of Laos: Now the fastest growing in the world’.

The report also noted most of the raw ivory comes from Africa by ship, in containers destined for Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

“Until recently, 90 per cent of large consignments would be moved directly to China. But nowadays much of the ivory is being diverted to Vientiane,” the 88-page report says.

Vigne and Martin did a survey in mid-November to December 2016. They collected data on the origin of ivory and trade routes into Laos.

According to them, the average wholesale price of raw ivory in Laos in 2013 had peaked to about $2,000 per kg (Sh201,896). But by late 2016, the average price had declined to $714 (Sh72,077) per kg.

The researchers found 81 retail outlets with ivory on sale, 40 of which were in the capital Vientiane. The least expensive item was $ 3 (Sh302) and the most expensive was a pair of polished tusks for $ 25,000 (Sh2,523,707).

In Vientiane and Luang Prabang, Chinese-owned shops had increased from three in 2013 to 35 in 2016.

MAJOR BLOW

In another report they released on October 2, this year, Vigne and Martin said the increased ivory in China from Myanmar could soon deal African elephants a major blow.

They compiled the report in late 2017 and titled it, ‘Myanmar’s Growing Illegal Ivory Trade with China’. In it, they found that the number of new ivory items for sale had grown exponentially.

“The number of new ivory items for sale in towns grew by 63 per cent in three years, and now accounts for over a third of the ivory seen in the country,” ivory trade specialist Lucy Vigne said.

She said Chinese visitors smuggled worked ivory from Mong La back home, with little concern about getting caught.

“This ivory has often come up the Mekong River into the lawless eastern periphery of Myanmar, where it is sold in retail and in bulk. The wholesale price for African raw ivory in late 2017 in the Golden Triangle region has remained stable at about $770 to $800 per kg since late 2015,” Vigne said.

Recent and previous studies are now what baffle governments, NGOs and decision-makers who gathered in London for the Illegal Wildlife Trafficking Conference between October 11-12.

Conservationists are now banking their hopes on the outcomes of the meeting to save elephants.

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Activists Calling For Total Ban Of Elephant Trafficking From China, Dubai, And Thailand


It's hard to believe that Thailand has a burgeoning underground elephant trade, but this is what activists have recently revealed. They have also started to call for stricter measures concerning the prosecution of people involved in this illegal trade. There have been cases of illegal animal trafficking in Thailand, Dubai, and also China.

This was revealed after an investigator unearthed cases of young elephants being brought across the borders of these countries illegally. In the case of China, the elephants are being brought over from Laos and moved across the border to be flown to the Middle East. Independent UK says that each elephant brings up to $295,040.12 in illegal trade profit.

Karl Amman, the filmmaker, was instrumental in bringing this trade to light. It was filmed in his documentary; the investigative filmmaker managed to trace the locations where the elephants were being sold to. Primarily, these animals end up in zoos, circuses, and other places like 'safari parks' where they suffer sub-standard living conditions, all for the price of an admission ticket.

The same situation is happening in Thailand, where the elephants are being brought in from neighboring country Myanmar. It's not enough that they are forcibly taken from their natural habitat-these animals endure freakish torture, aside from inhumane conditions. These, according to the investigation, were meant to break the animals as well as lower their spirit to make them more 'obedient' to commands.

These young elephants, when moved from their habitats, are taken forcibly from their mothers. Sydney Morning Herald reveals the harrowing manner in which these calves are brought up; they are given to foster mothers. The problem is that it has a low success rate; these adult female elephants may or may not accept the child as their own. In most cases, the calf is tethered to its surrogate mother using a chain or a rope.

The capture of these baby elephants is even more harrowing. Poachers, without a care for the familial bond these creatures have in the wild, will take the calves by any means necessary. What this means is that these infants can be removed from their parents through the elimination of the mother, lowering the numbers of elephants to an even more dangerous level.

In the part of UK, they are lobbying for a law that bans any tour package involving places that may have these captive elephants. It's not only for the tourists' safety-it's also to stop the promotion of this cruel trade.

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Delay in Hong Kong’s ivory ban endangers elephants and is ‘legally unnecessary’


China implemented a full ivory ban at the end of 2017, while Hong Kong announced it would only completely phase out domestic ivory trade by 2021. This mismatch in the implementation of the bans could be shifting the ivory trade to Hong Kong, researchers say in a new paper.

In addition to concerns about a growing ivory market in Hong Kong, the closure of China’s markets, combined with increased enforcement there, is also driving ivory to growing markets like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

An immediate ban of the ivory trade in Hong Kong is technically possible, and the delay to 2021 is “legally unnecessary,” a legal expert says.

In December 2016, China and Hong Kong, two of the world’s major ivory markets, announced their commitment to shut down all domestic ivory trade. China implemented a full ban at the end of 2017, making it illegal to sell or process ivory in the country. Hong Kong announced it would completely phase out the domestic ivory trade by 2021, giving traders a five-year grace period to sell off their remaining ivory.

This mismatch in the implementation of the bans could be shifting the trade to Hong Kong, a team of conservationists say in a new letter published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

“The worry here is that the continued legal market in Hong Kong serves as an opportunity for ivory traders to launder illegal ivory derived from recently killed elephants,” lead author Luke Gibson, an associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, told Mongabay.

A Kenyan ranger guards poached elephant tusks in preparation for the destruction of 105 tons of ivory and a ton of rhino horn in April. Image by Mwangi Kirubi via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, is a global hub for both the legal and illegal wildlife trade. It is also a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which banned the international trade in elephant ivory in 1989. This means that only ivory that comes from elephants killed before 1989 can be legally sold in Hong Kong. However, recent radiocarbon dating studies of large ivory seizures as well as government-led operations have found that some ivory traders have been selling ivory derived from elephants killed after the 1989 ban.

Gibson and his colleagues found that between 1996 and 2017, seizures of major shipments of more than 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of ivory were sometimes intercepted in Hong Kong, and other times in mainland China. The authors aren’t sure why seizures in the two countries seem to be negatively correlated, but they are concerned that with China banning its ivory trade at the end of 2017, the trade will now largely shift to Hong Kong. This would continue to encourage the poaching of African elephants. In the past couple of months, for instance, nearly 90 elephants were reportedly killed by poachers in northern Botswana.

“Ivory traders everywhere will always do whatever they can to evade detection by law enforcement,” said co-author Alex Hofford, a wildlife campaigner with WildAid Hong Kong. “It’s like playing a game of whack-a-mole. If it closes down over here, up it pops over there.

“We encourage the Hong Kong government to look into finding new and innovative ways to further restrict domestic Hong Kong ivory trade ahead of the full ban on 31 December 2021 — which is over three long years away,” he said. “Judging by the recent news of the 87 elephants massacre[d] in Botswana, a lot of elephants can still be slaughtered in that time.”

Mary Rice, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), who was not part of the paper, said large consignments of seized ivory were historically destined for markets in mainland China. While there is concern that the closure of China’s ivory markets, combined with increased enforcement there, could shift the trade to Hong Kong’s markets, it is also driving ivory to growing markets like Vietnam and Laos. These markets “cater predominantly for Chinese consumers who can no longer legally purchase ivory at home,” Rice said.

“Cambodia also now features regularly in seizure incidents,” she added. “Weak governance and enforcement in these countries facilitates the emergence of markets to fill the void created by China’s decision to ban ivory trade.”

Gibson and his colleagues, while applauding the Hong Kong government’s decision to phase out the ivory trade, urged a complete ban with immediate effect.

To possess and sell elephant ivory in Hong Kong, traders must have a license issued by the government. All currently held licenses will expire on Dec. 30, 2021.

To implement the ivory ban immediately, the government would have to cancel these licenses, Gibson said. While this is possible to do, Gibson said it was unlikely to happen because ivory traders had a strong political presence in Hong Kong.

Delaying the full ban to 2021 is “legally unnecessary,” said Amanda S. Whitfort, an associate law professor at the University of Hong Kong, whose husband, David Dudgeon, is a co-author of the recent letter.

“The right to private property under Articles 6 and 105 of the Hong Kong Basic Law is not absolute,” Whitfort said. “The government is permitted to take reasonable and rational action to restrict citizens’ free use of their property, including its sale, where restrictions are justified in the public interest. In this case, the government can make an extremely strong claim that the continued sale of ivory in Hong Kong compromises the legitimate societal interest in ending a trade that cannot be ethically or sustainably sourced.”

Whitfort said that since traders had not been asked to surrender their ivory to the government, “they may continue to keep it, exhibit it or even donate it. They simply may not sell it.”

“Those who have stockpiled pre-CITES ivory have had notice of the closure of the global ivory market for more than two decades, there is no legitimate need to allow them any more time,” she said. “Only after a total ban on the sale of all ivory has been implemented can Hong Kong begin to address the decades of harm our market has caused.

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Chinese border guards watch as elephant crosses through checkpoint into Laos

A wild elephant on Saturday surprised Chinese border officials when it turned up at their border checkpoint and carefully stepped over roadblocks to enter Laos.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

One of the largest black markets for animal parts is on Facebook



Log on to the world’s most popular social-media platform and type “tiger teeth” in the search bar.

Up pop photos of glistening white jaws torn from carcasses and various “closed groups” peddling parts of the great cats.

Blood money at the ready, one more click brings you a step closer to acquiring the illicit ivory. You’re automatically asked a series of simple questions about preferences. Show the most basic knowledge and you’re welcomed as a new “member.” Next come live digital conversations, more detailed vetting and, if you pass the tests, blood-drenched deals.

Welcome to Facebook, home to one of the largest black markets for the illegal buying and selling of the parts of slaughtered endangered animals, whistleblowers say.

From high society in New York to the badlands of Mexico, buyers are secretly scrambling to snap up the globe’s dwindling supply of elephant tusks, rhino horns, bear claws, tiger skins and other prized wildlife products in an annual trade estimated at $23 billion, according to the UN and Interpol.

And in New York, one of the largest markets for illegal ivory sales in the US, deals are moving from smoky back rooms to “closed” Facebook groups.

“What’s happening is really scary and a very worrying phenomena,” said Iris Ho, the wildlife campaigns manager at Humane Society International. “It is now possible that sellers and buyers in New York can go online, set up a closed or secret group on Facebook and proceed with their transactions.”

Last year, law enforcement nabbed the owners of Metropolitan Fine Arts and Antiques in Midtown for illegally selling some $4.5 million in ivory from more than a dozen slaughtered elephants. One pair of tusks, among 126 ivory items, was selling for $200,000.

While Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance wouldn’t say if Facebook played a role in that case, he said his office is “monitoring social-media channels for evidence of illegal sales and trafficking.”

“The amount of wildlife being traded on closed and secret groups on Facebook is horrifying,” said a rep for whistleblowing Washington law firm Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, which filed a federal complaint against Facebook last month. “We saw multiple products: rhino horn, bear claws, tiger skins, reptiles, and tons and tons of ivory. At a time when the world is losing 30,000 elephants a year to poachers, the amount of ivory sold on Facebook is particularly shocking.”




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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A wild elephant goes on a two day tour of a Chinese city



Police captured a wild Asian elephant that was lost on the streets of Pu'er City of southwest China's Yunnan Province on Sunday.

The male elephant was spotted twice in two days wandering the streets and parks of the city. The elephant entered Pu'er downtown area through a suburban tea plantation on Saturday night.he curious animal was herded out of the city on early Sunday by local forest police but was found walking around the city again on Sunday night, forcing the local authorities to take emergency actions.

The endangered Asian elephant is listed as a first-class protected animal in China. About 300 elephants are living in the country, solely in Yunnan Province.

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Hanging with Elephants at the Elephant Conservation Center in Laos




While visiting Laos, I knew I didn’t want to take an elephant ride, but if the elephant owners don’t have some income, they will sell the elephants to a much worse fate: horrible, cruel circuses. So, I spent time with elephants by feeding them, and bathing them and visiting the Elephant Conservation Center.

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Elephant festival celebrated in Laos

VIENTIANE, Feb 17: The Elephant Festival was held from Friday to next Thursday in northern Lao province of Sayabuly with 69 elephants joining the activities.

The elephant festival has been held annually for 12 years since 2007, with the purpose to educate, entertain the people, to raise awareness of these endangered animals and identify the need to protect elephants, which have played a vital role in Lao people’s livelihoods, culture and heritage.

On the occasion, elephant shows, parades and elephant beauty pageant were held at the opening ceremony in Sayabuly province, some 250 km northwest of Lao capital Vientiane.

In addition, exhibition of local produce, culture products and handicrafts are displayed at 227 booths.

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Thirteen elephants handed over to conservation centre by Laos govt

XAYABOURY, Laos (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Thirteen elephants handed over to Elephant Conservation Centre by Lao government.
In a scene straight of out an Indiana Jones movie, 13 elephants walked across the Nam Pouy National Park and arrived at their new home at the Elephant Conservation Centre (ECC) in Xayaboury province on February 19, 2018.

This impressive caravan had travelled about 150 kilometres, all the way from Thongmixay district where they had been stationed for several months following a decision by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith to stop their illegal export to a foreign country.

The Lao government has recently taken steps to reverse illegal wildlife trafficking and environmental crimes with tightened laws on log exports and a new national law on wildlife trafficking due to come into effect.

A tangible indication of this reform came this month with this gifting of elephants to the Elephant Conservation Centre in Xayaboury province, after all options were carefully assessed by teams from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for their relocation.

The ECC, well-known globally for its socially responsible care of retired, orphaned and injured domestic elephants, has been seeking to expand its facilities to enable a semi-wild environment in keeping with international practice.

With this ‘caravan of hope’, 13 Lao elephants are now free thanks to a brave decision by central and Xayaboury provincial authorities.

Aged 5 to 47 years, elephants from this group will now enjoy a life amongst the existing 12-strong herd at the ECC and hopefully contribute to the regeneration of the declining elephant population of Laos through the ongoing breeding programme undertaken by the ECC team of biologists and veterinarians.

As they left Thongmixay district in Xayaboury province, the elephants’ mahouts (elephant handlers), the Deputy Director of the provincial Agriculture and Forestry Department Mr Khamkeuang Phanlak and staff from the ECC walked for four days across the Nam Pouy National Park, an area where an estimated population of 50-70 wild elephants still exists.

As they exited the forest, they stopped in Pakxong village where they made a donation to the local elementary school, according to a report from the centre.

Representatives of Xayaboury provincial authorities present at the handover ceremony included provincial Deputy Governors Mrs Bounphak Inthapanya and Mr Phengnilan Khamphanpheng, the provincial Environment and Natural Resources Department Director Mr Somkhit Inthavong, and local provincial and district authorities.

Representatives of the Elephant Conservation Centre, Mr Inthy Deuansavanh, Mr Sébastien Duffillot and Mr Jean-François Reumaux signed the official handover agreement.

ECC occupies 530 hectares of forest land set on the shores of the breathtaking Nam Tien Lake in Xayaboury district, only two hours from the World Heritage town of Luang Prabang.

Xayaboury is home to 75 percent of the country’s elephant population and has been dubbed ‘The Lao Elephant Homeland’ for its historical connection with the pachyderms.

With 30 elephants, a team of 53 Lao and international staff and the only elephant hospital in the country, ECC now takes care of the largest elephant herd under human care in Laos and is currently working on the conservation of the wild elephant population of Nam Pouy National Park together with Xayaboury province authorities.

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Elephant crosses China-Laos border during early morning stroll

CCTV vision has captured a wild Asian elephant in south-west China taking a two-hour border tour before dawn.

The elephant moved out of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province and went for a stroll in neighbouring Laos before returning home two hours later.

 Surveillance cameras at the Chahe border crossing checkpoint captured the elephant's movements.

The footage shows the elephant initially puttering towards the exit of the border checkpoint.

Upon reaching the border railing, the animal slowed down a bit and comfortably crossed the "obstacle" to Laos.

Soldiers on duty immediately dispatched two teams to look for the elephant and reminded nearby residents to keep a watchful eye.

About an hour later the elephant was again seen heading back towards the border crossing.

But this time he circumvented the railing and sneaked in by the side of it.

"It's winter now and there's not a lot of food in the forest areas. We often see wild elephants hunting for food in nearby villages," said Li Zhifu, a soldier with Chahe border-crossing checkpoint.

"This time, the elephant wandered around within our exit port but could not cause any harm because of our efforts.

"The elephant has now returned to the forest safe and sound."

Wild Asian elephants are under national protection.

China has about 300 Asian elephants, mostly living in the tropical rainforest of Yunnan Province.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Chinese company signs agreement to build elephant protection center in Laos

China's Yunnan Provincial Investment Holding Group has signed an agreement with the government of northern Lao Sayabuly Province to build the Asian Elephant Species Protection, Breeding and Rescue Center.

The agreement was signed on Saturday on the sidelines of the International Elephants Festival and Visit Laos Year 2018 in Sayabuly province.

The deal aims to protect, breed, rescue and provide assistance to popularize the endangered animals particularly Asian elephants and to promote tourism in the province.

Yunnan Provincial Investment Holding Group was welcomed by the Lao President Bounnhang Vorachit to invest in the elephant protection center in Laos. He also expected more investment in Lao infrastructure and other sectors, said a press release issued by the Chinese company.

The local government will give strong support to the project which is expected to promote local tourism. The development of the industry may make Sayabuly a landmark tourism city for Chinese visitors, said the Lao president.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

China, Laos cooperate on wildlife protection

An eight-member team from the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve has concluded a joint field study on endangered Asian elephants with their Laotian counterparts.

The survey, which took place from Wednesday to Monday, helped determine range and population of wild Asian elephants in two counties of Luang Namtha Province, Laos, according to Zhang Zhongyuan, head of the office of the China-Laos cross-border biodiversity joint protection program.
This was the fifth joint mission since the office was set up in 2006.

Asian elephants often wander along both sides of the 680-km-long China-Laos border in Xishuangbanna, southwest China's Yunnan Province, Zhang said.

"Our experience in preventing and handling elephant attacks, including stolen or damaged crops and human injuries, can benefit our friends in Laos," Zhang said.

According to Yunnan's forestry authorities, more than 48,000 cases of wild elephants causing chaos were reported in Yunnan from 2011 to 2015, resulting in 18 deaths, 27 injuries and economic losses of about 99 million yuan (15 million U.S. dollars). The government has compensated the families of the victims more than 98 million yuan.

Wild Asian elephants are a Class A protected animal in China, with the species mainly located in Yunnan's Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and the cities of Pu'er and Lincang.

China's efforts to protect the ecosystem have helped wild elephant numbers grow from less than 180 in the 1990s to about 300 currently, but the animals are still facing extinction.

This month's survey came less than a month after another survey on endangered wild animals and plants was conducted at a nature reserve in Luang Namtha.

In a survey last year, Chinese researchers captured images of a rare leopard, the first such finding on the China-Laos border.

In 2009, China and Laos put an area of 55,000 hectares on the border under joint protection and gradually expanded the zones to 220,000 hectares by 2012.

Joint protection improves ecosystem management in border areas and is conducive to conservation of biodiversity, said Yang Yuming from Yunnan Academy of Forestry.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Laos plays host to thriving ivory market

China is following through on its promise to close down its domestic ivory trade by the end of the year, which means the door to one of the world's largest markets for elephant ivory will soon be shut.

When Beijing announced the ban in December last year, conservation groups welcomed it as 'the biggest and best conservation news of 2016'.

But already there are signs that business is moving elsewhere.

A new report by the Save the Elephants conservation group shows that Laos has become one of the fastest growing ivory markets in the world.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Elephants still at risk with Laos replacing China as ivory market

An elephant is lifted by a crane in an upside down position during a relocation exercise from Chemeron Farm in Rongai, Nakuru County to Aberdare National Park, on September, 28, 2017. The African elephant is still under threat as a new market for ivory emerges in Laos on the border of Thailand.

In Summary

Poaching to satisfy demand for ivory by Asian markets has seen the worst declines in Africa’s overall elephant population in the past 10 years.

In 1979, when 1.2 million elephants roamed Africa, Kenya had 167,000, says the Kenya Wildlife Service. Today, the total elephant population in Kenya is estimated at 38,000.

The conservationists said the world needed to put pressure on the Laos Government and other countries around china, such as Burma and Vietnam, to act on the burgeoning trade, if efforts to conserve the African elephant are going to work.

It was something of a triumph when China announced earlier this year that it was going to enforce a ban on domestic ivory trade.

However, a conservation group that has been studying the situation now says the African elephant is still under threat as the trade shifts to Laos.

Conservationists working under the umbrella of Save the Elephants Foundation said Thursday that as ivory shops and carving factories closed shop in China following the State-sanctioned ban, more were popping up in the tourist markets northwest of Laos on the border of Thailand close to Burma and China.

The ivory researchers who have been trailing the trade in ivory around the world for decades say the Chinese have moved their trade across the border to maintain demand with a long cultural heritage in China, making the southeast Asian country the fastest growing market in the world.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dozens of Laotian Elephants ‘Illegally Sold to Chinese Zoos,’ Says Wildlife Investigator

According to Ammann, so-called captive elephants in Laos sell for about £23,000 before being walked across the border into China by handlers or “mahouts” near the border town of Boten. Thereafter they are transported to receiving facilities, which buy them from the agents for up to £230,000 per animal. “That is a nice mark-up,” says Ammann, “and makes it exactly the kind of commercial transaction which under CITES rules is not acceptable.”

Ammann and his crew stumbled on the illicit trade between Laos and China earlier this year, while investigating the sale of 16 Asian elephants from Laos to a safari park in Dubai. None of the elephants had the necessary permits for export. The translocation was stopped by a direct order from the new Laotian prime minister at the last moment, while an Emirates Airlines Cargo 747 was already on the tarmac in Vientiane, the country’s capital.

“We then looked into the background of these elephants and met with several of the owners of the elephants, as well as the local agent who arranged this sale,” explains Ammann. Delving deeper, he and his investigative team discovered that the trade in live elephants from Laos mainly involved China, with almost 100 animals ending up in Chinese zoos and facilities.

Many mahouts told Ammann on camera that their elephants are captive-bred but have been sired by a wild bull elephant. To avoid stud costs, mahouts in Laos tie captive-bred females to trees in the forest so that they can be mated with wild bulls. Under Cites Appendix I, an elephant with a wild parent in an uncontrolled setting is not considered captive-bred and therefore may not be sold commercially.

Almost 100 Asian elephants are believed to have been sold from Laos to China over the past couple of years. Chunmei Hu, an animal welfare advocate in China, says she has already established that six zoos — all government-owned — have a confirmed 38 elephants from Laos, with 50 more likely to be Laotian. But the trade in live Asian elephants contravenes international regulations. Like African elephants, Asian elephants are considered a species threatened with extinction. All international trade is prohibited by the Convention in the Trade of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) unless it is not for commercial purposes, or unless the elephants originate from a Cites-approved facility of captive-bred animals.

To read the full article, click on the story title

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dozens of Laotian elephants 'illegally sold to Chinese zoos'

Dozens of elephants from Laos are being illegally bought by China to be displayed in zoos and safari parks across the country, according to wildlife investigator and film-maker Karl Ammann.

According to Ammann, so-called captive elephants in Laos sell for about £23,000 before being walked across the border into China by handlers or “mahouts” near the border town of Boten. Thereafter they are transported to receiving facilities, which buy them from the agents for up to £230,000 per animal. “That is a nice mark-up,” says Ammann, “and makes it exactly the kind of commercial transaction which under Cites rules is not acceptable.”

Ammann and his crew stumbled on the illicit trade between Laos and China earlier this year, while investigating the sale of 16 Asian elephants from Laos to a safari park in Dubai. None of the elephants had the necessary permits for export. The translocation was stopped by a direct order from the new Laotian prime minister at the last moment, while an Emirates Airlines Cargo 747 was already on the tarmac in Vientiane, the country’s capital.

“We then looked into the background of these elephants and met with several of the owners of the elephants, as well as the local agent who arranged this sale,” explains Ammann. Delving deeper, he and his investigative team discovered that the trade in live elephants from Laos mainly involved China, with almost 100 animals ending up in Chinese zoos and facilities.

Many mahouts told Ammann on camera that their elephants are captive-bred but have been sired by a wild bull elephant. To avoid stud costs, mahouts in Laos tie captive-bred females to trees in the forest so that they can be mated with wild bulls. Under Cites Appendix I, an elephant with a wild parent in an uncontrolled setting is not considered captive-bred and therefore may not be sold commercially.

To read the full article, click on the story title


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Tauranga student will care for elephants in Laos

A Tauranga woman is heading to a remote part of Asia to help care for endangered elephants.

Angela-Mary Fearnley, from Whakamarama, plans to go to Laos in late November to spend two weeks at the Sayaboury Elephant Conservation Center as part of the Volunteer Eco Student Abroad VESA programme.

Miss Fearnley's role will see her working closely with many elephants at the purpose-built rehabilitation, research and breeding facility.

All the animals were rescued from endangerment by the logging trade.

Miss Fearnley, 20, is in her third year of a bachelor of mechanical engineering at the University of Auckland.

"I've always loved elephants and when some VESA volunteers visited the university in my first year to talk about their unique experiences, I was hooked," she said.


One of the perks of her eco-tour would be the chance to ride elephants to and from her jungle bedroom, and help care for the calves in the elephant nursery.

To read the full article, click on the story title

Friday, March 10, 2017

Elephants on Parade in Laos to Raise Awareness about the Animals

Dozens of elephants, adorned in bright colors and with garlands of flowers, paraded through a Laotian town on Saturday in a celebration of a species that has become increasingly scarce in the Southeast Asian country.

Known historically as the "Land of a Million Elephants", Laos now has only a few hundred left in the wild and not many more than that in captivity, most of which are used in logging.

Nearly 70 elephants joined the main procession at the 11th annual elephant festival in Sayaboury Province some 200 km (120 miles) northwest of the capital Vientiane.

"The festival is organized to draw the public's attention to the condition of the endangered elephant as well as promoting traditional culture and livelihoods," said Yanyong Sipaseuth, the deputy governor of the province.

Wild elephant numbers have dwindled because of the destruction of their forest habitat, although poaching for ivory has also played a part, conservationists say.

A ban on capturing elephants from the wild so they can be domesticated has put greater strain on the existing captive population, meaning elephants are often worked so hard that they fall sick and no longer reproduce.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Elephant festival in northern Lao province

The 11th elephant festival took place in Laos’s northwestern province of Sayabouly on February 18.

The annual event, which drew the participation of Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and hundreds of thousands of visitors at home and abroad, aims to raise public awareness of elephant conservation.

It also demonstrates the close-knit relations between Lao people and elephants.

The elephant festival was held for the first time in 2007.

This year’s event attracted over 300,000 visitors, doubling the number in 2016.

It was commenced with a majestic parade of nearly 70 elephants, followed by other activities such as playing football, running, drawing, and tug-of-war contests among the participating elephants.

The festival also featured various cultural and artistic performances staged by local ethnic groups.

Sayabouly is now home to more than 400 domestic elephants and hundreds of wild elephants.

The Lao government has put forth a number of policies in recent years to protect elephants in association with tourism development.

The government also plans to expand the elephant festival to national scale in the years to come.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Lao elephant festival to feature almost 70 elephants

VIENTIANE, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- Lao Elephant Festival 2017 is scheduled to be held from Feb. 13 to 19, 2017 in the northern Xayabouly province with the expectation of almost 70 elephants joining activities during the festival.

The festival is one of the major events of the province and represents past times when the elephant population included countless numbers of elephants. As a result, Laos was then known as the Land of a Million Elephants, Deputy Governor of Xayabouly Province Yanhyong Sipasert was quoted by Lao state-run news agency KPL as saying on Tuesday.

Elephant stories have been blended into the culture and livelihood of Lao multi-ethnic people from time immemorial. The Elephant Festival has been held for almost 10 years. In addition to entertaining and educating spectators about elephants, the festival aims to raise awareness of these endangered animals and calls for the protection within Laos and around the world.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

TRAFFIC survey highlights Lao PDR’s dark trade in ivory

A recent TRAFFIC survey found more than 2,100 ivory pieces on sale in two luxury hotels in Vientiane. Lao PDR is playing a more prominent role in the international ivory trade than was previously thought, says a new report launched by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

The report points to the significantly higher volume of ivory items openly on sale in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) and the seizures of African ivory en route to the country as indicators of its growing involvement in the illegal trade.

The Role of Lao PDR in the Ivory Trade, which appears in the latest issue of the TRAFFIC Bulletin, details a TRAFFIC survey carried out in August 2011 that found 2,493 pieces of ivory, including jewelry, name seals and raw tusks, openly on sale in 24 retail outlets mostly in the capital Vientiane, compared to just over a hundred ivory items observed in nine shops in 2002.

International visitors appear to be the main buyers, especially in Vientiane where more than 2,100 ivory pieces were found on sale in two luxury hotels where ivory prices were quoted in US Dollars and Chinese Yuan, rather than in the Laotian Kip.


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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Elephant Deaths Spark Security Boost

Somsack Pongkhao, Vientiane Times
March 27, 2009

Local authorities will beef up village security forces to protect wild elephants from poaching in Phou Khaokhouay, or ‘Buffalo Horn Mountain’,National Protected Area after five elephants were shot dead a few weeks ago. Villagers said two of the five elephants died in Ban Na in Thaphabath district of Borikhamxay province.The remainder, including a juvenile, were found inBan Yangkheua in the same district. Ban Na, located 82km south of Vientiane, relies heavily on tourism income derived from its pachyderms. The town boasts an elephant observation tower which has proven popular with visitors wanting to see elephants in their natural environment.

While the motivation for the killing has yet to be proven,officials suspect commercial motives. Poachers usually kill elephants for their valuable
body parts, namely tusks,trunks, teeth and tails. Deputy Head of Phou Khaokhuay National Protected Area, Mr That Keothone, said authorities were still analysing the bullets for clues.

“We are encouraging people in the 10 villages living nearby the protected area to be our ‘eyes and ears’, as well as to report strange sightings or incidents to authorities immediately,” he said. Yesterday, district authorities met with residents of the 10 villages to discuss preventive measures as well
as how to boost villagers’ participation in the rotection of elephants from
poaching.

Head of tour guides at Ban Na, Mr Bounthanom Inthilath, said Thaphabath district’s Agriculture, Forestry and Tourism Office had issued a notice barring villagers from interfering with the elephant remains.


“Those who interfere with the dead elephants will be considered to have been associated with the crime,” he said. “At the meeting we agreed to add extra village security force patrols to protect the conservation area. The reason is because village security men know a lot about the protected
area.”


People in Ban Na say the elephants are their most important source of income, and losing them would mean hardship for many. Mr Bounthanom said the villagers had been earning income from tourists coming to watch wild elephants since the opening of the elephant observation tower in April,
2005.


Villagers benefited from domestic and overseas visitors who spent money on homestay accommodation, tower entry fees, village tour guides, food and the purchase of handmade products and souvenirs from the village.

Mr Bounthanom said last year the village earned about 100 million kip from
tourists coming to see the elephants. “More tourists now want to see the elephants, but my concern is that if elephants are scared of poachers, they won’t come to the tower and finally no tourists will come here. All of us will be affected,” he said.

It was unclear how many wild elephants there are in Phou Khaokhouay, but Mr Bounthanom said about 40 elephants were reported in 2005.

Meanwhile, officials said one elephant was also reported killed in Phou Phanang National Protected Area. They called for urgent attention
from the relevant sectors to address the issue.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Domesticated elephants poached for ivory

Ingrid Suter, ElefantAsia
10 September 2008
Alarming reports as Laos’ endangered elephants are being poached for the illegal ivory trade.
News of elephant poaching has been reported from Laos’ north-west province Sayaboury. In two separate incidences a total of five elephants were found dead with bullets to their head and feet. Occurring in May and August of 2008 both cases are believed to be linked. All five of the dead elephants were male and had their tusks extracted from their heads by the poachers. Some of the elephants were found to have also had their tails removed. Three of the deceased elephants were privately owned and two were from wild populations. Alarmingly this is the first time domesticated elephants have been reported as being poached for the ivory trade in Laos. District and provincial authorities are taking the matter very seriously.

With less than 1000 wild and 560 domesticated elephants remaining in Laos, poaching is a very serious threat to the entire elephant population. The interrelationship between wild and domestic elephants is still very strong in Laos, with poaching directly affecting the survival of both populations.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Baby Elephant died a sudden death in Luang Prabang

Som Neuk, the nearly 4 year old rescued Baby Elephant which was living in Luang Prabang “Elephant XL Camp” died a very sudden death on Saturday, 15 March. The Elephant died “probably due to incorrect medication” given about 10 days ago, the examining veterinary
surgeon Mr. Krisda Luangka (formerly of Thai Elephant Conservation Center – Chiang Mai) said today in an interview. According to his preliminary autopsy information the young Elephant died from internal bleeding and intoxication. The liver was destroyed and a natural cause of death seems very unlikely. The veterinarian and the camp management are waiting for final test results from the laboratory in Thailand.
The young and vital elephant was freed from an uncertain future last year and brought into the sanctuary to be raised with other elephants in a natural setting. The “Elephant Park Project” members and owner wished to give this baby elephant a brighter future without being taken for hard and brutal logging work in the forests of Laos!
Ten days before his death the young elephant was examined by a delegation from the non-profit
organisation ElefantAsia and a French veterinarian. According to their information the elephant
was sick and medication was given. Immediately after the death on 15. March, the same
veterinarian was called and visited the dead animal. The police and tourism authority officials
present during the visit can attest that the veterinarian from ElefantAsia only performed a visual
examination of Som Neuk, not enough for a professional diagnosis. Nevertheless, ElefantAsia
asserted the elephant died of “weakness and diarrhoea”. The findings of Mr. Krisda Luangka
from Thailand show that this is unlikely.
As elephants in Laos slowly vanish it is vital to keep the younger offspring healthy and provide
professional care. As younger elephants are getting more difficult to breed and raise to
adulthood this loss is tragic. Providing medical care is one of the main objectives of the
“Elephant park project” and “Elephant XL Camp” in Luang Prabang. This small but needless
accident shows us that constant and professional health care for elephants in Laos still needs
improvement, further supervision, and perhaps further international support.
All persons and organisations involved regret the death of the young Som Neuk!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tourists seen as a lifeline for Laos elephants

By Thin Lei Win, Reuters
April 1, 2008

VIENTIANE (Reuters Life!) - Laos, once known as the Land of a Million Elephants, faces warnings from conservationists that it could lose its herds within 50 years if it does not move quickly to protect them with tourism eyed as a possible savior.

Poaching and habitat loss from logging, agriculture and hydroelectric projects has caused a major decline in the number of both wild and domesticated Asian elephants in Communist Laos.

ElefantAsia, a France-based non-profit organization, estimates the number of domesticated elephants, who are used mainly in the logging industry, has fallen 25 percent in the past five years to 560 with only 46 cows under the age of 20 left.

It estimates there are less than 1,000 elephants left in the wild where there are only two births to every 10 deaths.

"(The situation is) critical," Sebastien Duffillot, co-founder of ElefantAsia, told Reuters. "Destruction of habitat has huge impact on wild elephant groups. Domesticated elephants are overworked in logging and thus do not reproduce."

The World Wide Fund for Nature estimates as few as 25,000 wild and 15,000 captive Asian elephants may be left in the 12 countries where they live

To read the full story click on the blog title


Elephants In Laos Rapidly Disappearing

Elephants In Laos Rapidly Disappearing
DENIS D. GRAY, The Associated Press
March 21, 2008

VIENTIANE, Laos - Connie Speight has swayed on elephant-back through unforgiving jungle and has adopted nine of the high-maintenance beasts. At 83, the retired American teacher is back in this Southeast Asian country to help save what remains of the once mighty herds.

Once so famous for its herds that it was called Prathet Lane Xane, or Land of a Million Elephants, Laos is thought to have only 700 left in the wild.

"Lots of people in Asia tell you how elephants are their proud national heritage," Speight said. "But I tell them, 'It was your heritage, and what are you doing to bring it back?' Often precious little."

Elephants in Laos are better off than in most of the 12 other nations that are home to the animals. The country has extensive forest cover and a sparse population. But like elsewhere, it's a race against time. Poachers, dam builders, loggers and farmers are taking a deadly toll on the endangered species.

"The situation will become very dramatic in about 10 years if nothing changes," said Sebastien Duffillot, co-founder of France-based ElefantAsia. At their current rate of decline, Laos' wild elephants could be extinct within 50 years, he warns.

To read the full story click on the blog title


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Another elephant killed in Borikhamxay

Ekaphone Phouthonesy, Vientiane Times
June 2007
The protection of endangered wild elephants in Borikhamxay province will eventually become impossible if illegal hunters of the giant animals are not arrested, provincial officials have warned.
According to a report from the Borikhamxay Agriculture and Forestry Department, another elephant was killed in April in the Namkading National Protected Area, bringing the number of elephant killings in the province since 2006 to three.
There are now thought to be just five elephants remaining in this protected area.
A police officer working in the economics unit in Bolikhan district, Mr Sysouphan Lorvanxay, who is involved in the investigation of the latest elephant killing, said the hunters had taken the elephant's tusks, toenails and various organs that are valuable because they are used in some traditional medicines.
He said the investigation team had talked to villagers who said they heard a series of gunshots coming from the area before they arrived on the scene to find the dead elephant. The hunters had apparently used firearms to shoot the animal in the head.

Mr Sysouphan confirmed that the previous two cases involved elephants killed using the same technique, and they were continuing to investigate, as these killings were illegal under the country's forestry laws.
The Deputy Director of the Namkading National Protected Area, Mr Manisengphet Phakhounthong, told Vientiane Times this week that, until now, police had been unable to find the people responsible for illegal wildlife hunting.
“It is going to become ever more difficult to protect these wild animals if we cannot arrest the perpetrators of these acts,” Mr Manisengphet said. “To stop the illegal hunting of wild elephants, the search for those who are responsible must become more urgent.”
He said forestry officials were concerned about the continued hunting of endangered wildlife in protected areas, which would have a negative impact both on the animal population and on the forest itself.
“Wildlife is crucial for the survival of the forest, as they help to balance the eco-system,” he said.
He said that elephants were on the list of protected wild animals along with tigers, and forestry officials were determined to find the hunters and punish them.
He said forestry officials were cooperating with various international NGOs to launch a campaign in nearby villages, to help locals understand the importance of wildlife. If people are more aware of how many wild animals are endangered and what impact this is having on the forests, this might encourage them to play more of a role in protecting the animals.
But this is a slow process, Mr Manisengphet said, because in the past villagers have had problems with elephants damaging their crops and are generally not concerned if they are killed.
He confirmed that forestry officials were increasing their patrols and inspection measures in the protected areas to reduce the opportunity for wildlife hunters to kill endangered animals.
But, he said, this would not solve the problem completely, as it was not limited to the protected areas. For instance, one of the main problems was that people were continuing to consume wildlife in various forms, giving illegal hunters more of a reason to continue killing endangered species.
Discouraging locals from buying or eating wildlife was part of the awareness-raising campaign in nearby areas, Mr Manisengphet said.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Laos losing its iconic elephant. Birth rates are plunging due to lost habitat and gruelling work. Can eco-tourism help?

FRANK ZELLER, Agence France-Presse
MArch 14, 2007

HONGSA, LAOS -- The elephant population of Laos is shrinking fast, a decline ecologists blame on habitat loss and a trend all too familiar to many humans -- too much work, not enough play.

Ancient Laos was known as Lan Xang, the "Land of One Million Elephants" but today fewer than 2,000 of the animals survive and about half of them are driving the problem by helping log the country's last virgin forests.

Birth rates have plummeted as wild populations have been isolated and domesticated elephants often spend eight hours a day in remote logging camps, leaving them exhausted and far from potential mates.

For the full story click on the blog title

Environmentalists in the poor Southeast Asian country are trying to reverse the trend before it is too late, pinning their hopes on eco-tourism and revitalizing the elephant's ancient sacred role in Lao culture.

To raise awareness about the plight of the majestic animals, France-based non-profit group ElefantAsia last month organized modern Laos' first elephant festival in the remote northwestern district of Hongsa. The event featured colourful elephant parades, skills demonstrations and religious rituals in which Buddhist monks performed rites for the pachyderms traditionally honoured for their strength, spirit and intelligence.