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Despite conservation efforts, elephants still in decline

If more effective measures aren't taken, elephants will disappear from the Central Highlands' region.

In previous years, elephants had a large habitat, from Lai Chau, along the Truong Son Mounts to Binh Phuoc, Tay Ninh and some provinces in the coastal areas of the central region.




However, scientists estimated that Vietnam now has only 124-148 wild elephants living in eight provinces, namely Son La, Nghe A, Ha Tinh, Quang Nam, Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Dong Nai and Binh Phuoc.

Of these, only three habitats still have more than 10 elephants, including Pu Mat National Park and neighboring areas (Nghe An province) with 13-15 individuals. There are 14 individuals in the Cat Tien National Park, the Dong Nai Natural and Cultural Reserve and the La Nga Forestry Co Ltd. Meanwhile, the Yok Don National Park in Dak Lak Province has 80-100 individuals.

Dak Lak is the province with the highest number of wild elephants with 5 populations. Of these, the largest one of 32-36 individuals, is mostly in the Yok Don National Park.

Dak Lak is the province with the highest number of wild elephants with 5 populations. Of these, the largest one of 32-36 individuals, is mostly in the Yok Don National Park.

As for domesticated elephants, a report showed that in 2018, there were 91 individuals in 11 cities/provinces, while the figure was 165 in 2000. As such, 74 elephants were lost after 18 years.

The number of elephants has also been decreasing in Dak Lak, called the ‘metropolis’ of domesticated elephants. According to MARD, the province had 502 domesticated elephants in 1979-1980, while the figure dropped to 299 in 1990, 169 in 1997 and 138 in 2000. This means that the number of elephants dropped by 364 within 20 years (1980-2000).

The figure had decreased further to 45 as of 2018.

The human-elephant struggle

MARD reported that within seven years, 2008-2014, the Central Highlands lost 358,700 hectares of natural forests, which means that 51,200 hectares of forests were lost each year.

Because of the loss of habitat and food sources, a conflict between local people and elephants has been triggered.

In 2013, a group of 17 wild elephants came to Ea Sup district, disturbing the life of locals. In Ea Hle commune of Ea Hleo, elephants usually came and damaged crops prior to 2012. However, the elephants no longer appear because of the forest reclamation projects which have disturbed the habitat and forced elephants to leave.

While wild elephants lose their habitat, domesticated elephants have been forced to work too hard.

In Dak Lak, half of the 45 domesticated elephants are aged 35-50 and many of them have to work every day, either serving tourists or carrying farm produce.

From 2012 to now, 10 domesticated elephants died because of aging, exhaustion, murder, accidents or attacks by wild elephants.

Thanh Mai


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