As office manager, my Monday mornings follow a familiar pattern, however, this Monday was anything but normal.
Today I’m not in the office but in Laos ‘The Land of a Thousand Elephants’, spending time with a group of beautiful female Eurasian elephants at a new project called Mandalao, a short distance from Luang Prabang.
Sadly, Laos only has 40 wild elephants remaining and with logging now banned, these majestic creatures are facing huge challenges to stay away from the traditional tourist use for retired loggers. This is where projects such as Mandalao come in. Run by a passionate American, Mike, who has rescued eight elephants and brought them, and their mahouts to a small reserve allowing them to retire in this peaceful environment. No Ankush (sticks) and no riding, just a safe place where the mahouts and local farmers are learning to become elephant whisperers.
A breeding project is underway between the captive females and their wild male counterparts, a baby – Kit has already arrived and is making his way through the gentle system until being released into the wild. Dressed in boots we crossed the river and waited for the elephants to reach us, not the other way around. We stood as four females and their mahouts joined us on the river bank, here they were fed on bananas and bathed with cool buckets of water. Following them into the forest for their daily walk, through the river, under and over branches before we arrived for more bananas and great photo opportunities, at this point we met Kit, his mother and grandmother as they majestically walked passed, no interaction allowed.
Then it was time to say an emotional goodbye, maybe I was tired (it had been a busy few days) but it was a tug saying farewell to our new friends, their future at least happy and secure.