Laos' elephant population continues to decline and faces extinction within the next fifty years, observes a Lao Ministry of Forestry official.
"True, Laos is known as the land of a million elephants. But the elephant population has been continuously on the decline, with currently less than 1,000 wild elephants and about 500 domestic ones remaining. So, if there is no serious conservation effort, the elephants will be extinct within the next 40-50 years," says the official who adds that, "the elephants do not have opportunities to mate and reproduce because they are overworked and excessively used."
Factors contributing to the decline in the elephant population are poaching for the elephants' valuable tusks, wars, deforestation and use of the elephants in logging. Thus, the Lao government started a campaign to conserve the elephants by launching an annual Elephant Festival in 2007 in Sayabouli Province. The aim is to raise awareness of the importance of the big animals, to stop using them in logging and to use them in eco-tourism instead.
Authorities said the first Elephant Festival was well received, and attracted over 10,000 tourists to Sayabouli, with that number increasing to 50,000 during the second festival in 2008. The 2009 festival, which will take place on February 14-15 in Sayabouli district, is expected to draw some 100,000 tourists and bring tens of millions of dollars in revenues.
Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.