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Laos’ Love Affair With Asian Elephants

Elephants - Laos - Lan Xang - Luang Prabang - Xayabouri

Laos, historically known as Lan Xang, the “Land of a Million Elephants”, has one of the strongest cultural connections and longest history with elephants in Southeast Asia. In fact, from 1952 to 1975 the royal flag of Laos carried the image of the sacred, triple-headed, white elephant, which symbolized the ancient name of the country, Lan Xang.

Elephants - Laos - Lan Xang - Luang Prabang - Xayabouri

Throughout history, with extensive forests and a sparse human population, Laos catered perfectly to the development of a significant wild elephant population. However, the historical practice of domesticating wild elephants for warfare, transportation and the logging industry greatly decreased their population. Additionally, increasing land development, agriculture and industrial infrastructure in modern times has led to the severe loss of habitat for these endangered animals. Conservationists estimate there are about 400 wild and 450 domesticated individuals remaining in Laos.

In recent years the reputation of businesses employing elephants, especially in the tourism industry, has suffered severely due to many grievously managed camps all over Southeast Asia. There is a movement toward changing attitudes among western tourists and a new awareness of the need to promote better animal welfare, especially for elephants. However, complete rejection of offering elephant interactions in tourism might not be the way to save and sustain the current population of endangered Asian elephants.

Since many elephants today were either born into captivity or retired from work in the logging industry, these animals and their mahouts depend on the income from tourism camps to simply afford the massive amounts of daily food their beloved animals require, not to mention the livelihood of the mahout and his family.

Khiri Travel Laos therefore believes that the support of well-evaluated and ethically operated businesses can help in sustaining and improving the future of Asian elephants. In order to do so, Khiri Travel endeavors to cultivate awareness in visiting tourists and the local population alike about how to promote and protect animal conversation. Khiri Travel strongly advocates for this in our detailed Animal Welfare Policy. Based on this policy, we can recommend to your travelers to support the following elephant camps in Laos:

Elephant Village Sanctuary, Luang Prabang

Proceeds from visitors will help to support nine elephants rescued and rehabilitating from logging work. If your clients want to learn more about and interact with these gentle giants, this sanctuary has an elephant experience as part of an overnight stay in the luxurious Shangri Lao Exploration Camp. For the upcoming season, Shangri Lao will abandon the use of the howdah or mounted chair, which is very harmful and can cause serious injury to the elephant’s back.

Elephant Conservation Center, Xayabouri

Your travelers can contribute to and learn about these magnificent creatures in this well established and award winning sanctuary situated in the animal’s natural environment near Xayabouri. By visiting the ECC, visitors support an environmentally friendly and fair business approach. Furthermore, your traveler’s visit helps protect ancestral culture, knowledge and traditions as well as a rich and fragile tropical ecosystem. We can offer a very enjoyable elephant experience during a 2D/1N or 3D/2N tour accommodated in cozy wooden bungalows.

For more information about how to get close to elephants in Laos while helping to sustain their population, please contact to [email protected]


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