How does the Lao Elephant Homeland differ from other elephant conservation programs?
- The LEH is the first and only elephant organization in Xayaboury ran by Laotians that benefits the elephants, the land and the local communities.
- All Elephants are local to Xayaboury. They remain in their natural habitat and visitors go to them, they are not transported for tourism purposes.
- The LEH cares for all elephants brought to the organization, regardless of their condition. This means that sick, injured or even old elephants are looked after. Many camps only have elephants that are suitable for tourism. Taking these Elephants creates jobs for mahouts (elephant handlers) and gives visitors an honest representation of elephants and how their lives have been affected by humans.
- The LEH provides thorough education on each individual elephant and the life that it has led. Each has a unique history and story to tell.
- At the LEH, visitors may ride elephants–done only in an ethical manner. They are ridden bare back (not in baskets) just as the mahouts do. This does not hurt the elephant and isn’t classified as animal cruelty. It is how the mahout and the elephant learn to trust one another and is a unique experience that volunteers may participate in an ethical manner.
The History of Lao Elephant Homeland
Throughout his extensive experience working with both elephants and mahouts, Mr. Sak began to see that the community had two severe problems that desperately needed solutions. First of all, in Laos, as in most of SE Asia, elephant camps typically only employ elephants that are healthy because they are otherwise too much of a liability.
This creates a problem for both elephants and mahouts. With a lack of employment, there is no income for the mahouts and thus the health of the elephants suffer even more. This sprouted the idea of a Lao elephant organization ran by Laotians, that brings in elephants of all walks of life, regardless of health or injury. Ideally, this conception would also further promote education and environmental activism for tourists and locals alike. In the future, the LEH hopes to broaden it’s reach, with the addition of an elephant hospital for both sick and injured elephants.