From a westerner point of view, Elephant tours in Asia are not always well seen and often considered as unethical.
But as locals, we do think that there are many understandings and prejudice against the treatments of Elephants in Laos.
That is why we would like to share our opinion regarding elephant tours and their benefits.
Laos, the land of a million elephants
Laos has been nicknamed the land of a millions elephants since the country maintain close relations with this impressive mammal for millenniums.
However, with time the number of elephants in Laos has dramatically deceased and we now count only 800 elephants whose half are under human care.
Asian Elephants are listed as endangered and preserving them is a matter of the highest importance.
Elephant, a high daily cost
Since elephants are so large, they require an enormous amount of food. Elephants may spend 12-18 hours a day feeding.
Adult elephants can eat between 200-600 pounds of food a day. As herbivores, elephants consume grasses, tree foliage, bark, twigs, and other vegetation daily.
Elephants can also drink up to 50 gallons of water a day about as much as a standard bathtub holds.
Mahout, which is the name given to elephant keepers, have to bear relatively high costs in order to feed and take care of their animal, with whom they usually have very strong bonds.
In the past, elephants were used to accomplish hard work in the logging business.
But nowadays without income from the tourism industry, the elephant owners are left with very limited choices : that is to either sell their elephants to foreign individuals, send them back in the logging industry, or worst, kill them to sell valuable body parts in the black market.
Releasing them into the nature is not a viable option since these elephants are not wild anymore.
Elephant tours represent the only sustainable revenue stream.
Elephant, caring and treatment
You can sometimes see Mahouts using chains to maintain the elephants within a certain area and hook to train them.
These tools are necessary in order ensure the control of the elephant and the safety of everyone in a free contact environment (namely without separation fences).
Hooks are not harmful for the elephants when it is properly handled. Hooks should be used as a guiding tool and not as a punishment tool.
The chains are also necessary to prevent conflicts between same camp elephants as their social structure is different from wild elephants.
Chains should be used with stinginess and always leave enough time for the elephants to walk.
Elephant, physical activity and riding
It is important to note that it is mandatory and natural for elephants to have daily activity, so that they are stimulated physically and mentally.
If riding is not performed and elephants are only used for feeding and bathing activities, there is a risk that they would not exercise enough.
Joining elephant tours is therefore a good way to preserve elephants health.
Elephant riding is not harmful for elephants when done properly. Acceptable riding should be for a reasonable distance, on natural ground, under natural shadow and with a maximum of two individuals plus the Mahout.
Under these conditions, riding is totally safe and ensure an optimal comfort for the elephant.
The vast majority of elephant camps in Laos follow good practices but it is true that some of them are less cautious about the elephants well-being.
Therefore giving elephant tours a bad image despite its key role in the conservation of this endangered species.
By booking with us, you are certain that the elephants are well treated since we are only working with camps that strictly follow our guidelines and standards.
Check the below infographic to have the summary of 5 reasons to join Laos elephant tour