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Thinking of a New Career? Think Big. Very Big.

Two Boys from Colorado Open Elephant Center in Laos

Denver, CO - Growing up in Colorado, Michael Vogler and Kellen Johnson were exposed to the beauties that characterize that magical state. Both had a deep interest in and love of wildlife and environmental conservation, and attended Colorado Mountain College to study outdoor education. But, what, practically, as adults could they do with that?

After volunteering with the Da'Laa Project in Malaysia; the Orangutan Foundation in Indonesia, and the Gorilla Foundation in Rwanda, Vogler found himself in Luang Prabang, in the small communist country of Laos, encountered elephants, and had an epiphany that they were his, and Kellen’s, future.

“Over the next two years, we worked non-stop to raise money, find land, rescue elephants from logging and riding camps, build out the property and hire local staff. We were able to open MandaLao Elephant Conservation in November, 2016,” says Vogler, owner and CEO.

“If you had ever asked me what I'd be doing at 32, in my wildest dreams it wouldn't have been running an elephant project. Traditional careers aren’t for everyone, so if you have the desire and the drive to do what you love, it’s worth taking the leap and pursuing it.”

Acknowledged by such organizations as the World Wildlife Fund and World Animal Protection, and such media outlets as Vanity Fair, CNN, Forbes, Bangkok Post, South China Morning Post and the BBC, MandaLao offers an interesting case study for people who want to take career roads less travelled.

“MandaLao is changing the way captive elephants are treated, from one that too often involves pain and abuse to one that is respectful, humane and ethical. The Lao Elephant Initiative is a proud funder of this game-changing social enterprise.” said Caz Matthews, former President of Anthem BCBS in Colorado and LEI Chairperson.


Interviews arranged upon request

Media Contact: Sally Kweskin,

MandaLao Tour Co. Ltd. ​is a privately-owned ecotourism enterprise, established in 2016, in Luang Prabang, Laos.; mandalao_elephants (Instagram); mandalao elephant conservation (FB)

Lao Elephant Initiative (LEI) is a nonprofit, nonreligious, nonpolitical organization founded in January 2018. Recognized as a State and Federal tax-exempt, publicly supported 501(c)(3) charitable organization, LEI maintains an office in Denver, CO, and supports elephant conservation projects in Laos..

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