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First of its kind ethical elephant experience is launched in Vietnam

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Yok Don National Park in Vietnam has scrapped elephant riding tours in favour of "ethical elephant experiences" which give tourists the opportunity to watch elephants in their natural habitat.

Tourists can now observe the park’s four formerly captive elephants roam freely in their natural habitat on an educational tour, the first of its kind in Vietnam.

Image credit: Venkat Ragavan on Pexels

Yok Don National Park based in southern Vietnam has changed its approach in response to global criticism over the ethics of elephant riding tourism. According to their website, they are the first organisation in Vietnam to change to an elephant-friendly tourism model.

The four elephants, comprised of three females named Bun Kham, Y’Khun, and H’Non, and one bull named Thong Ngan, have begun to display the social and emotional behaviour of wild elephants as they spend up to 18 hours per day foraging just as they would do in the wild.

Before the shift to educational elephant tours, the Yok Don elephants spent many hours chained to trees harnessed with heavy riding equipment and were unable to properly socialise with each other. Some days, the elephants would entertain tourists around the park for over nine hours.

Many elephants remain in similar conditions around Vietnam.

The initiative has been put in place with the aid of Animals Asia, a charitable organisation which fights for lasting change in animal welfare and tourism in China and Vietnam. It has also received funding from the UK charity Olsen Animal Trust.

Speaking to The Guardian, Animals Asia’s animal welfare manager Dionne Slagter says: “This project has entirely changed the lives of the elephants at the park and it also provides a much better experience for the tourists. Exploitation has been replaced with respect.”

“They all look so much healthier and are increasingly confident in how far they roam,” she continues.

On the 13th of July, an eco-tourism agreement was signed between Animals Asia and the park. The agreement will last until April 2023.

Olsen Animal Trust has aided the transition through funding initial losses, allowing current employees to keep their jobs.

It is hoped that the model will provide elephant tourism companies with the same or more revenue as the elephant rides previously delivered.

You can book onto the elephant experience online at Yok Don National Park's website.

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