Deeply rooted in the foundations of Buddhism and local folklore, elephants have attained an almost mythical status across much of their ancestral lands. Laos became known as the “Land of One Million Elephants” or “Lan Xang” from fabled accounts of a procession of them crossing the Mekong River not far from Luang Prabang. By all accounts humans and elephants have worked side-by-side in the region for nearly 2000 years.
Ranging from 3 to over 60 years of age, MandaLao’s elephants have spent the majority of their lives working together in logging camps and and low welfare tourist attractions. With new regulations limiting logging operations across Laos, and concern over elephant welfare, we have been able to bring these amazing creatures home to where we offer them a dignified and comfortable life in harmony with nature.
With a background in wildlife and environmental conservation work around the globe, Laos drew Michael in from the first time he visited. He sees MandaLao as part of long-term strategy to create and promote new community-based conservation projects.
As one of the founding members of MandaLao his dedication and passion helped shape our organization into what it is today. While he is no longer directly affiliated he stills plays a valuable role as an advisor and dear friend.
Few people have as deep an affinity for elephants as Prasop Tipprasert. After working with them for over three decades – as co-founder and director of the Thai Elephant Conservation Center and extensive work with the National Park Service – his knowledge of both captive and wild elephants is profound. A pioneer and originator of Positive Reinforcement Training, Prasop has joined us at MandaLao to continue to refine this training and share his understanding of the human and elephant connection with others. Along with training our elephants, mahouts and guides he focuses on interacting with guests. It is as much a treat to hear him tell stories from decades past as it is to gain rare insight into elephants’ emotions and behaviors.
After years working in kitchens from New York city to Luang Prabang, Laos, Roice has an undying desire to develop true culinary masterpieces. He brings this experience and passion to MandaLao and helps ensure our guests receive the highest level of hospitality.
Dr. Will Thomas
After moving to Laos nearly ten years ago Will opened Animal Doctors International to provide world class veterinary care in a country where so many animals are in need. Beyond looking after the health of our elephants he is helping us push the boundaries of their ethical treatment and welfare.
THE BABY | A NEW FUTURE
Only 9 months old when he came to MandaLao, our baby, nicknamed “Kit,” has become a key part of our future plans. Using new training techniques pioneered largely by Prasop Tipprasert, Kit will stay with his mother (when most babies are separated) and be raised using only positive reinforcement and tender care. Happily, this is a far cry from the traditional fear techniques where hooks, hammers, and abuse predominate.
As we are all aware, even the most remote pockets of wilderness left in the world are quickly disappearing. Laos has been gifted with an abundance of ecological diversity and spectacular landscapes that few places on earth can rival. It is our aim to expose travelers to these wonders and put value on protecting them. Without intent and action from Lao citizens and international visitors, the things that make Laos such an amazing place may quickly vanish before our eyes.
Situated approximately 150km southwest of Luang Prabang, Nam Poui National Protected Area remains one of the last strongholds for wild elephants in Laos. Forty to fifty elephants call it home, as do many other species iconic to Southeast Asian jungles. Unfortunately, the area remains very vulnerable to poaching and illegal logging. In order to help combat these threats we will begin to offer guests tours of the park to view wildlife and assist the World Wildlife Fund in data collection. It is our hope to bring attention and funding to Nam Poui so that it is better able to protect the land and its inhabitants and ensure its long-term survival.
THE LAST MAHOUT
Exploring the sacred bond between elephant and mahout.