Wild Welfare has been in Vietnam, discussing the future for the country’s future captive elephant populations.
Our team took part in the first ever international elephant management workshop for the Elephant Conservation Centre (ECC). Through the Vietnam Elephant Initiative (VEI), alongside partners Animals Asia Foundation and Elephant Care International, the ECC benefits from resources and practical advice that support long-term improvements in care and veterinary treatment for Vietnam’s captive elephants.
Wild Welfare’s projects director, Georgina Allen, said: “The situation in Vietnam needs urgent action. Wild elephant populations have declined at an alarming rate and individual captive elephants, used in the tourism industry can routinely suffer from lack of appropriate care.”
Vietnam has a wild elephant population of around 100 individuals and an even smaller captive population, and the ECC, set up in 2011, is tasked with overseeing the management of the captive elephant population and protection of the wild population.
The ECC, elephant owners, mahouts, government officials, animal welfare NGOs and international elephant experts, met this week in the central highlands province of Dak Lak, to discuss how ECC pushes for improved welfare for its current captive population and how it develops its existing facility- which already houses two rescued elephants, Jun and Gold.
Vietnam’s captive elephant population mainly comprises individual elephants within family homes in Dak Lak and the neighbouring provinces, that are used for tourist riding activities. These elephants can spend much of their lives on their own, with little or no opportunity to interact with others of their species and carry heavy howdahs to take tourists on rides, practices that do not constitute good welfare for highly social animals with complex needs.
“The ECC offers Vietnam a unique opportunity to set an example across Asia, demonstrating how captive elephants can be offered the best in welfare and still generate an income for the local population,” Mrs Allen added.
“This week we have heard from other NGOs and eco-tourism projects working with elephants across Asia, learning that by providing a more natural captive setting, where individuals can form small herds and socialise, you can offer alternative tourist activities to elephant riding.”
The ECC and elephant owners have expressed a real desire to change their current practices and the workshop has allowed everyone involved to see the positive opportunities to improve welfare for the country’s elephants.