Feed The Elephants Program

As the world continues to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic, elephants in captivity are suffering just as much as the humans caring for them. As did most countries worldwide, Lao closed its borders to visitors nearly a year ago, eliminating anticipated revenue generated through tourism: income desperately needed to ensure that the elephants are fed and cared for. 


Now heading into the 12th month of lockdown, with no international tourists expected for the foreseeable future, the situation for many elephants and elephant tourism venues is growing more and more dire. 


While it seems logical to ask why these elephants simply can’t be released back in the wild - where they can feast on jungle greenery - they can't. This is because most captive elephants were taken from the wild - 40 or 50 years ago, when it was legal - and put to work to earn money from their labor. Now, the majority of these elephants are too reliant on humans, their owners, mahouts and tourists, to survive. They don’t have the skills or instincts to make it in the wild. 


In response, in September, 2020, the Lao Elephant Initiative (LEI) has provided funding for a grassroots project, called "Feed the Elephants” (FTEP). FTEP is working actively and aggressively, right now, with very limited funds and people power, to try and save these elephants. 


It’s a simple and effective effort. After assessing and determining which elephants and camps are in the most dire need, FTEP has identified and taken on temporary responsibility for 8 elephants at 2 camps located in and around Luang Prabang. The number of elephants needing immediate care changes from day to day, as more owners ask for help and we are able to see the condition of their elephants worsening. 


Specifically, FTEP is: 


  • Purchasing, delivering, and feeding the elephants FOOD from local farmers


  • Providing fresh WATER to the elephants daily


  • Hiring Animal Doctors International to provide professional VETERINARY CARE 


  • Hiring back MAHOUTS who have been let go so the elephants have a critically important, loving caregiver 


Notably, no cash or compensation of any kind is being given to camp owners. There is only one paid staff to manage the program. 


In just over a month, with LEI’s help, FTEP is making steady progress toward saving elephants. However, until international travel opens up and tourists return, LEI must raise critically needed funds to ensure that these elephants are fed and watered, getting the exercise they need, are receiving medical care and have the human interaction necessary to ensure their wellbeing. 


A fundraising campaign will launch in March, with a goal of $20,000.