The elephant breeding program at the Elephant Conservation Centre in Sayaboury, Laos, is integral to the continuity of the Asian elephants in Laos. There are only two elephant births per year amongst the aging population of four hundred domesticated elephants. There are around four hundred wild elephants still in the country, but with yearly habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, and poaching, the forests are not safe for them either.
The ECC is no longer offering rides at the centre, because one of the major factors that hamper the continuity of the species is tourist riding camps, where elephants ride for kilometres a day like docile robots, are simply worked to make a profit, and are never bred as it keeps them from working.
At the ECC our volunteers can interact with the elephants in a more natural way, experience their unique personalities, feed them, come close to them as well as observe them from faraway watchtowers as they are in the forest without people around. The volunteers all appeared to gain a lot from this type of interaction, now seeing the issues in treating these endangered creatures like they are vehicles for us to sit on and ride.
VESA volunteers are encouraged to think about conservation and to think critically about what they can do to make a difference when they go home (i.e. reducing plastic usage as rubber tree plantations annually encroach on elephant habitat, etc.)