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  • Wyss Academy

Happy elephants and happy people (Nam Tien, Laos)

Situated near Sayaboury town in Laos, Nam Tien Provincial Protected Area spans 6,000 hectares. It has been home to the Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) since 2010. The Nam Tien area provides a secure habitat for 10% of the country's captive elephants. Maintaining a healthy captive population in Laos is considered crucial, both by the Government of Laos and the conservation community, as it represents a vital resource that can help strengthen the country’s remaining wild elephant population. The ECC's rewilding program relies on the availability of elephants of breeding age capable of forming strong social bonds before their eventual release.

© Elephant Conservation Center

But the elephants are frequently disturbed: The Nam Tien area has been facing encroachments in the form of large-scale agriculture, such as bananas and watermelon. Additional disturbances, like karaoke boats on the lake, are increasing, underscoring the vulnerability of conservation measures when faced with lucrative businesses.

In January 2023, the Wyss Academy for Nature established a partnership with the Elephant Conservation Center to test and implement various innovative approaches to the conservation of both species and habitats. Their long-term sustainability is ensured by the fact that they also bring benefits for communities. The measures include a mahout-to-ranger program in which traditional and scientific knowledge are combined, and the piloting of a new research-based business model for conservation focused on eco-tourism. In addition, the ECC reaches out to local communities with environmental- and conservation-focused education programs.


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