Stillbirth of baby elephant crushes Vietnam’s 30-year hopes of reviving domesticated herd

By Vi Vu   October 9, 2017 | 12:49 am PT
Stillbirth of baby elephant crushes Vietnam’s 30-year hopes of reviving domesticated herd
A pregnant elephant and her companion walk through a flooded field in Dak Lak. Photo courtesy of Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center
The herd of 44 elephants is likely to disappear in the next two decades.

The first baby conceived by a domesticated elephant in Vietnam in 30 years died during birth on Sunday night, dashing Vietnam's three-decade hope of reviving its dwindling domesticated herd.

Representatives from the elephant conservation center in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak said on Monday morning that the baby had died during a two-day long labor.

The male calf, weighing 90 kilograms (198 lbs), was removed from his mother by a vet and has been buried.

The pregnancy was the first in Vietnam in around three decades, and had been widely followed by various media outlets.

H’Ban Nang, the 38-year-old mother, had been left to rest after her pregnancy was noticed. Her owners also received VND171 million ($7,500) in support which they used to rent an older female elephant to keep her company, reports said.

Huynh Trung Luan, director of the conservation center at the province’s agriculture department, told Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper that she was expected to give birth at around 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, but it did not happen.

“We feel so sad,” Luan said.


The dead elephant calf in Dak Lak on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center

Most domesticated elephants in the region are kept to serve tourism.

Hard work, poor nutrition and limited space for mating have been blamed for the zero rate of reproduction among the herd, which has dropped from 502 in 1980 to 44 today, according to figures from the conservation center.

It is the biggest domesticated herd in Vietnam. It includes 25 females, 16 of which are of a reproductive age.

The herd is expected to disappear in the next 20 years unless new members are born, conservationists said.

Their wild peers in Vietnam are in a similar situation.

The country's population of wild elephants has shrunk by 95 percent since 1975 to less than 100. At least 23 wild elephants have died over the past seven years, and nearly 75 percent of them were less than a year old, according to conservation organizations.

Poaching and the expansion of plantations into their habitats are the biggest threats to their survivals.

Last month, the U.S. government pledged $24 million to help protect Vietnam’s last remaining elephants by conserving their natural habitat.

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