Animals Asia Supporting Dak Lak Elephant-Friendly Travel Model

Dak Lak province is working to boost the elephant-friendly tourism model.

Dak Lak Practicing Responsible Tourism with Elephant-Friendly Travel Model
Leaders of the Dak Lak Provincial People’s Committee and representatives of Animals Asia Foundation sign a cooperation agreement. Photo: Animals Asia Foundation

The People’s Committee of the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak and Animals Asia Foundation on Dec.15 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the conversion of elephant-friendly tourism model, reported VNA.

The MoU aims to end the use of elephant riding tourism and activities affecting the welfare of elephants in tourism and festivals, contributing to elephant conservation in the province.

Dak Lak province will refrain from organizing such activities as elephant riding tourism, elephant-related competitions including elephant swimming, tug of war, or reenacting scenes of hunting and taming elephants.

The Animals Asia Foundation will responsible for mobilizing legal resources for technical and financial support to benefit elephants and households with income from elephant riding tourism.

Y Giang Gry Nie Knong, vice chairman of Dak Lak provincial People’s Committee, said the province is home to 140 individuals, a 90% decrease in the number of elephants compared to 1980. However, most of the tamed elephants are old and no longer able to reproduce.

It is a worrying phenomenon in Dak Lak province in particular and the whole country. Therefore, to continue solving difficulties for elephant conservation from 2022 to 2026, the Animals Asia Foundation will support the province’s Elephant Conservation Center with US$ 231,000.

“Dak Lak province commits to supporting the proposals of the Animals Asia Foundation to build and deploy an elephant-friendly tourism model. From there, towards ending the use of elephant riding tourism as activities affecting the elephant’s complex in tourism and festivals, contributing to elephant conservation in Dak Lak province,” said Knong.

Animals Asia Supporting Dak Lak Elephant-Friendly Travel Model
Elephant-friendly tourism model is developed in Dak Lak. Photo: Duong Minh Hoang

According to the AAF, the foundation has provided funding of US$ 65,000 to support the transition from the riding elephants tourism model to coming to see elephants in their natural environment from July 2018 to July 2023. This is the first elephant-friendly tourism model in Vietnam which has drawn support from domestic and international tourists as well as the international community.

The new tourism model will protect the health and life of elephants while benefiting elephant owners and the locality community at the same time, it said.

In 2015, the elephant tourism industry made headlines in Vietnam when a number of animals died of exhaustion due to overwork.

Dak Lak province, home to Yok Don National Park, is famed for its elephant tourism.

Animals Asia and Yok Don National Park signed an agreement to implement an elephant-friendly tourism model to protect the elephants from tourism activities from July 2018 to July 2023.

The managers of Yok Don National Park must not use three elephants for tourism activities and let them roam free. Tourism firms can let tourists observe the elephants in their habitat in their tour, reported Dtinews.

Recent data from the Vietnam Administration of Forestry, Vietnam’s wild elephant population is believed to have fallen to between 100 and 150.

The rapid decline in numbers, is largely due to loss of habitat as forests are cleared for logging and agriculture. Historically, wild capture for domestication in the tourism industry and poaching for ivory have been exacerbating factors, although poaching has ceased in recent years.

In recent years, Vietnam has taken emergency steps to conserve the country’s remaining wild populations by establishing the Elephant Conservation Centre, where Animals Asia provides animal management and welfare advice.

Hannah Nguyen