Elephant Caravan in Laos sparks conservation debate

In Laos, the elephant population has been decimated by logging. Now, a ‘caravan’ of elephants and their mahouts is marching 400 miles to raise awareness of their plight

For centuries Laos has been known as the Land of a Million Elephants. Now there are fewer than 900 of the iconic creatures – and less than half of those are wild. If the population continues to decline at the current rate, elephants will be extinct in Laos within a few decades.

These statistics add an extra poignancy to the Elephant Caravan, a 45-day procession of elephants and their mahouts currently making its way across northern Laos. The caravan started in Pak Lay district on 27 October and will end, 391 miles later, in Luang Prabang on 9 December with 20 elephants parading through the streets. The parade is part of the celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of Luang Prabang’s listing as a Unesco world heritage site, but the primary purpose of the project is to raise awareness of the plight of elephants in Laos.

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