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Elephants in Laos

| Words by Ashley Diterlizzi |

The land of a million elephants might not actually be home to a million of these beautiful creatures, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see them while you’re here.

Working elephants

History of elephants in Laos

The 14th century name of Laos, Lan Xang, translates to “the land of a million elephants”. Then, the Asian elephant inhabited much of the dense green forests of Laos, making it seem as though millions of them roamed the countryside. Today the population of Asian elephants has been classified as endangered across Asia as a result of severe habitat loss and poaching. Across the continent it’s estimated that only 35,000-40,000 Asian elephants remain.

Around 90% of captive elephants in Laos work in logging, effectively destroying their own habitat and making it harder for them to survive. The remaining percentage of captive elephants are forced to give rides to tourists, usually in lesser developed parts of the country. These elephants are often treated poorly.

Shangri Lao Elephant Village

Where to see elephants in Laos

Elephant numbers in Laos have dwindled but a dedicated community are helping to look after them.

Shangri Lao Elephant Village

Located near Luang Prabang, Shangri Lao Elephant Village focuses on the protection and rehabilitation of elephants in Laos. Many of the elephants in the village have been retired from their logging work but lack the skills they need to survive in the wild. The village also provides employment for indigenous people from remote areas of the country.

Elephant Conservation Center

Dedicated to the conservation and protection of the Asian Elephant and located about four hours from Luang Prabang, the Elephant Conservation Center gives visitors the chance to see elephants in their native habitat. The center provides a natural home to elephants rescued from abuse in the logging and tourism industries. The center has the only hospital dedicated to treating injured or diseased elephants and they also run breeding program.

Join us in Laos for responsible elephant tourism on one of our small group journeys or talk to our Asia experts about designing your own private itinerary.