YOK DON NATIONAL PARK TO BOOST ELEPHANT-FRIENDLY TOURISM
Dak Lak – Yok Don National Park in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak signed an agreement with the Animals Asia Foundation on July 13 to become the first unit in Vietnam committed to applying elephant-friendly tourism. The two sides pledged to shift the tourism model from riding elephants to coming to see elephants in their natural environment. Specifically, the transition will see the elephants free to behave as they would in the wild, free to roam the park; bathe in mud, dust, and water; or graze as tourists watch on from a safe distance.
Cruel mistreatment of the elephants will be eliminated, including the banning of their use for festival activities. Communications will be intensified to raise public awareness of the protection of wildlife. The Animals Asia Foundation committed 65,000 USD in aid for the Yok Don National Park to carry out the transition project, which will last until July 2023. The foundation also vowed to send experts to the park to build and maintain the tourism model effectively.
Deputy Director of the park Pham Tuan Linh said that the park currently has three tame elephants, who are used in patrolling and developing ecotourism. The new tourism model will benefit elephant owners, mahouts, and the local community, he added. David Neale, Animal Welfare Director at the Animals Asia Foundation, said that environmentally-friendly tourism is a growing trend the world over.
In Vietnam, Yok Don National Park is the first unit committed to replacing traditional elephant riding with activities that allow them a more natural and free environment. This is a chance for the park to protect wild animals and attract more domestic and foreign tourists. Dak Lak is home to 45 tamed elephants, mostly living in Buon Don and Lak districts.