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Vietnam province to phase out elephant tours, protect endangered herd

By Lan Huong   December 15, 2021 | 11:13 pm PT
Vietnam province to phase out elephant tours, protect endangered herd
Tourists take elephant-riding tours in Dak Lak Province, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen
Authorities in Dak Lak Province, home to the country's largest elephant population, are committed to halting elephant tours to save the animal from extinction.

Provincial authorities Wednesday signed an agreement with Hong Kong-based animal welfare organization Animals Asia to phase out the elephant-riding tourism industry along with other activities that greatly affect the welfare of domestic elephants.

Instead, Dak Lak will offer elephant-friendly tourism services in an effort to protect the elephant population, which has shrunk by 90 percent over the last four decades.

In 1990, the Central Highlands province had more than 500 elephants, but now only 140 are left, mainly in Buon Don and Lak districts, official data shows.

For many years, Dak Lak had been famed for elephant-riding tours and other activities like elephant swimming, elephant football and elephant parades, typically held during traditional festivals in what activists describe as "exploitation."

Since 2004, Animals Asia has cooperated with Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center to send international experts to provide health checks and technical advice on elephant care and management.

In July 2018, Animals Asia and Yok Don Park signed an agreement under which the latter would convert its elephant tourism services into an elephant-friendly model.

Many conservationists and international organizations have called on the Vietnamese government to stop elephant rides, saying the animals should not be forced to work long hours under the sun.

In 2015, the elephant tourism industry made headlines in Vietnam when five elephants died, one after another, of exhaustion after being overworked.

 
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